To Prevent Suicide Ask for Help at First Warning Signs

DCoE Outreach Center

DCoE Outreach Center

By U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Loree K. Sutton, MC, USA
Director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury

The invisible pain of war and life are real, as Ernest Hemingway put it, “The world breaks everyone, and many become stronger at the broken places.”

 Our men and women in uniform are coming home after multiple deployments from Iraq and Afghanistan different than when they left—their loved ones have changed as well. Whether deployed or on the home front our friend, spouse, child or buddy may be struggling with a moral injury, psychological trauma, or medical illness. Our military family is all in this together, we must remind each other that we are NOT alone and reaching out IS a sign of courage and strength.

As a community we can educate ourselves on the resources available to those struggling with the seen and unseen injuries of combat.  If left untreated the psychological health issues our warriors face can manifest in several ways and be compounded by pain, anxiety, substance misuse, and conflicted relationships and be fatal. The greatest threat to the health and well-being for our warriors, veterans and their loved ones is stigma. It is deadly, toxic, hazardous, and must be eliminated.

The book Why People Die by Suicide by Dr. Thomas Joiner helps us to identify three emotional elements a potential suicide victim may be feeling—perceived or real. As human beings we all want to belong. Quite often someone contemplating suicide may feel invisible or alone. They may see themselves as a burden to their friends and family. And they are often desensitized to violence, pain and injury—virtual or real—that was once seen as abnormal. As fellow human beings, we have a duty to reach out and fight for life—you are not alone.  We are all in this together.

We owe our warriors, veterans and their families our very best. If you are worried about someone who is demonstrating some of the warning signs and think they may be contemplating suicide, take action by expressing your concern and asking if they are feeling hopeless or suicidal. If so, reach out for professional help immediately, and escort them to safety. 

By acknowledging and being aware of the risks and resources available we can assist those we know as well as others who take courage from our example.

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit

If you would like more information on psychological health and traumatic brain injury, please contact the DCoE Outreach Center toll-free at 866-966-1020, by email at or via instant message at We are eager to get your feedback to continuously improve our ability to connect with you… There simply is no greater privilege.

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