Mental Health and Suicide Prevention for Veterans, Service Members, and Their Families
Suicide is a national public health issue. It impacts people from all walks of life, regardless of whether or not they have served in the military; however, the suicide rate among Veterans in 2019 was 52% higher than non-Veteran adults in the U.S., according to the 2021 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report. It is estimated that Veteran suicides represent approximately 22% of all suicide deaths in the U.S.
Libraries are well positioned to provide information and referral services to connect Veterans and members of military communities with Veterans Health Administration programs and initiatives that address risk and protective factors for suicidal behaviors.
The resources and information provided below can be used by library staff to promote mental health and well-being among Veterans, service members, military families, and their communities.
Key Resources to Share with Patrons
Veterans Crisis Line (veteranscrisisline.net)
The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring VA responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat service, and text messaging service. You don’t have to be enrolled in VA benefits or health care to use the Veterans Crisis Line. The website includes a Signs of Crisis section with ways to recognize warning signs of crisis, and a confidential, anonymous self-check assessment, to see if stress and depression might be affecting the individual. The site features a Local Resources search tool to find local resources and support systems to help.
Don't Wait. Reach out. (va.gov/Reach)
As part of the comprehensive public health approach outlined in the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide (pdf), a national campaign was developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs in partnership with the Ad Council to reduce Veteran suicide. The campaign encourages Veterans to reach out for help before their challenges become overwhelming, directing them to the VA.gov/REACH site, which is designed for Veterans to proactively seek support and resources.
Firearm Suicide Prevention & Lethal Means Safety - REACH (va.gov)
Lethal means are objects like guns, medications, alcohol, opioids or other substances, ropes, cords, or sharp objects that can be used during a suicidal crisis. If a Veteran is in crisis or having suicidal thoughts, these items can become deadly when they are easily accessible. For example, nearly 7 out of every 10 Veteran deaths by suicide are the result of firearm injuries (Dept. of Veteran Affairs, 2018). Increasing the time and distance between someone in a suicidal crisis and access to lethal means can reduce suicide risk and save lives. Find helpful tips for storing guns, medications, and other lethal means.
Suicide Prevention - Mental Health (va.gov)
Within the mental health topic areas, explore suicide prevention resources to build networks of support among community-based organizations, Topics include prevention, coping and support, lethal means, and data.
Uniting for Suicide Postvention (va.gov)
Suicide prevention is a commonly used and understood term. However, not everyone recognizes suicide postvention. Suicide postvention builds upon prevention efforts by providing immediate and ongoing support to those impacted by a suicide loss. Postvention is critical for healing after suicide. The Uniting for Suicide Postvention website provides resources and support for everyone touched by suicide loss.
VA’s Social Media Safety Toolkit (pdf)
This toolkit equips Veterans, their families, and their friends with the knowledge needed to respond to social media posts that indicate a Veteran may be having thoughts of suicide.
Mental Health Home (va.gov)
The VA has a variety of mental health resources, information, treatment options, and more — all accessible to Veterans, Veterans’ supporters, and the general public.
Whole Health Home (va.gov)
Whole Health is VA’s cutting-edge approach to care that supports health and well-being. Weekly posts to the VA’s blog, Vantage Point, provide Whole Health resources, including video sessions, to follow along with at home. Sessions pull from a variety of existing VA resources, and include breathing exercises, stretching, meditation, fitness, yoga, tai chi, and more.
VA Homeless Programs
Few conditions are more harmful to individual health and welfare than homelessness. Learn how the VA and its partners are supporting Veterans experiencing homelessness, and how you can help. Resources include Homeless Veterans Outreach Tools (printable brochures, posters, wallet cards, factsheets, and more).
National Call Center for Homeless Veterans (877-4AID-VET / 877-424-3838)
Veterans who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness, their family members, friends, and supporters can call or chat online with the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans where trained counselors are ready to talk confidentially 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
VA Suicide Prevention Toolkit for Caregivers (pdf)
This toolkit includes important information about suicide prevention, as well as evidence-based mental health and substance use disorder treatments that can help Veterans recover and meet their goals. It also includes information on how caregivers can look after their own mental health and wellness.
Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Resource Toolkit for Never Federally Activated Former Guard and Reserve Members (pdf)
This toolkit connects former members of the Guard and Reserves, their families, and their providers with mental health and suicide prevention resources available through VA and in the community.
Other Relevant Resources for Patrons
Print Out Your VA Welcome Kit | Veterans Affairs
The VA Welcome Kit can be downloaded to help guide Veterans and their families to the benefits and services they’ve earned.
VA Veterans Justice Outreach Program
Identifies justice-involved Veterans and contacts them through outreach, in order to facilitate access to VA services at the earliest possible point.
VA Facilitated Free Legal Clinics
- Legal Help for Veterans - Office of General Counsel (va.gov)
- List of Free Legal Clinics through VA Facilities - pdf (va.gov)
StatesideLegal is a comprehensive resource for advocates, Veterans, and active-duty military personnel looking for information about civil legal issues, both VA-related and not. It is also an excellent repository of self-help materials on a wide range of civil legal issues. It is funded in significant part by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and operated by an LSC grantee in Maine, Pine Tree Legal Assistance.
Training and Resources for Library Staff
Talking With a Veteran in Crisis Handout – pdf (va.gov)
You don’t have to be an expert to ask if someone is going through a difficult time or having thoughts of suicide. If you notice changes in a Veteran’s behavior or moods and you think they might be in crisis, it’s time to respond. The simple act of having a conversation can help save a life. This 2-page document provides some ways to approach a conversation with a Veteran who may be suicidal.
Safe Reporting on Suicide (pdf)
Provides guidance on how to communicate about suicide in a safe and ethical manner, correct misconceptions, convey hope and encourage help-seeking behaviors among those at risk for suicide. Information was adapted from reportingonsuicide.org.
Swords to Plowshares’s Toolbox.vet
A culturally informed approach will benefit veterans and significantly improve the quality of services your library provides. Developed by Swords to Plowshares, Toolbox.vet is an online library that aims to better equip advocates and providers with the tools they need to connect with veterans of all ages and assist them. The library at Toolbox.vet blends written content with an audiobook and podcast from real veterans and advocates.
PATRIOTLink is a vetted and regularly updated searchable database of organizations serving Veterans nationwide with detailed information about service areas, eligibility criteria for each provider, and more.
SAVE stands for Signs, Ask, Validate, Encourage & Expedite. By taking this course you will develop a general understanding of the problem of suicide in the United States, understand how to identify a Veteran who may be at risk for suicide, and know what to do if you identify a Veteran at risk. Additionally there is the VA S.A.V.E. Preventing Caregiver Suicide, which helps to develop an understanding of the increased risk for suicide in military and Veteran caregivers, identify the signs of an at-risk Veteran caregiver, and know steps you can take to help a Veteran caregiver.
Veterans Experience Office, locator by state
Veterans Experience Office Points of Contact for Community Veteran Engagement Boards
Center for Women Veterans (CWV)
The Center for Women Veterans’ (CWV) mission is to monitor and coordinate VA’s administration of health care, benefits, services, and programs for women Veterans.
Military OneSource offers free, confidential peer support services to service members, their families, and transitioning Veterans up to 365 days post separation or retirement. Call 800-342-9647 or visit www.MilitaryOneSource.mil.
Coaching Into Care
Coaching Into Care is a national telephone service from VA that aims to educate, support, and empower family members and friends who are seeking care or services for a Veteran.
Make the Connection
MakeTheConnection.net is an online VA resource designed to connect Veterans, their family members and friends, and other supporters with information, resources, and solutions to issues affecting their lives.
VA Mobile Device Applications
The National Center for PTSD has developed a suite of free mobile apps, compatible with IOS and Android devices, which provide self-help, education, support, and treatment companions. Self-help and education apps help with insomnia, smoking cessation, mindfulness, Couples, COVID and many other topics
Start the Conversation
This customizable toolkit provides information about common issues that many Veterans face, as well as concrete steps to help you support a Veteran who may be dealing with emotional distress or at risk for suicide. Create your own toolkit.
Suicide Prevention is Everyone’s Business (pdf)
A toolkit for Safe Firearm Storage in Your Community. VA released the Safe Firearm Storage Toolkit, which was developed in partnership with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for the firearms industry. The toolkit guides communities through the process of building coalitions to raise awareness about safe storage practices.
These resources have been compiled in collaboration with the Veterans Health Administration’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Legal Services Corporation, and OCLC’s WebJunction program.
August 12 Webinar
Mental Health and Suicide Prevention for Veterans, Service Members, Families and Communities
Please join us for a webinar with presenters from the Veterans Health Administration Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, who will provide an introduction to military culture and share how libraries can help raise awareness of the resources available to Veterans, their families, and other members of military communities.