Suicide: In military personnel and veterans

Suicide: In military personnel and veterans

LaShanta Petroski-Ackley, L.I.C.S.W., Marilyn Lash, M.S.W., Maureen K. O'Connor, Psy.D., ABPP-CN

Suicide among veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is preventable. Many service members are having difficulty adjusting as they return to duty, come home, rejoin their families, go back to work, and resume their lives. Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and chronic pain increase the risks of suicide. This tip card for veterans and family members describes the warning signs of suicide, identifies the risks among service members, and discusses how and when to find help to prevent suicide.

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Full Description

As service members and veterans return from long and repeated deployments, many struggle with depression along with the consequences of traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder. Others have chronic pain from injuries, amputations, and physical injuries. Some have experienced sexual trauma.

This tip card helps service members, veterans, and their families know the warning signs of an increased risk for suicide. It provides a questionnaire to help veterans and service members recognize the need to seek professional help to deal with suicidal thoughts. It is crucial for veterans who have thoughts of death, self-harm, or suicide to seek treatment. There are resources listed designed specifically for veterans and suicide prevention.

Pages 8
Year 2012


LaShanta Petroski-Ackley, L.I.C.S.W.

LaShanta Petroski-Ackley received her MSW from Salem State College in 2006 and went on to receive her LICSW in 2009. LaShanta current works at the Bedford VA as a member of the suicide prevention team, where she works with veterans in crisis and educates the general population regarding suicide prevention. LaShanta also serves as a member of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention lifekeeper memory quilt holder. Previous experience includes working in Mental health, specialized foster care and adoption. She has clinical experience in working with clients of all ages including children, adults, and the elderly.

Marilyn Lash, M.S.W.

Her specialty is helping families cope with the emotional impact of brain injury and developing strategies for negotiating the complex service system. Now President of Lash and Associates Publishing/Training, she focuses on developing user friendly publications for families, educators and clinicians.

Maureen K. O’Connor, Psy.D.

Maureen K. O’Connor is a board certified neuropsychologist and Director of Neuropsychology at the Bedford Veterans Hospital in Bedford, Massachusetts. Dr. O’Connor has extensive experience working with veterans of all ages, including OEF/OIF/OND veterans. Dr. O’Connor conducts evaluations of veterans with suspected traumatic brain injury and other emotional disorders and she has developed several interventions to assist these populations with return to civilian life.



Risks of Suicide among Veterans

  • Depression
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Other conditions

What are the Warning Signs of Suicide?

What are Protective Factors?




Sample excerpt. Preview only – please do not copy.


More than 1.6 million service members have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), and Operation New Dawn (OND). Over 565,000 have deployed more than once. Many have served long and multiple deployments with repeated exposures to life threatening events. Many have witnessed wounds and deaths among comrades and friends. Unfortunately, many service members are having difficulty adjusting as they return to duty, come home, rejoin their families, go back to work, and resume their lives. Too many veterans feel alone, believing that others cannot understand what they are feeling.

What are the Warning Signs of Suicide?

It's important for service members, veterans, and their families to know the warning signs that suggest an increased risk for suicide. Sometimes it can be difficult to see the signs and know what to do. Sadly, some families and friends say they saw no warning signs, while others recognized signs but did not know what to do.

Listed below are signs that may suggest an increased risk of suicide:

  • threatening to hurt or kill oneself
  • sense of hopelessness
  • signs of clinical depression: deep sadness, loss of interest, difficulty sleeping (too much or too little), eating (too much or too little)
  • feeling anxious or agitated
  • neglecting personal hygiene
  • withdrawal from friends, family, and society
  • expressing feelings of excessive guilt, shame
  • rage, anger, or seeking revenge
  • feeling that life is not worth living
  • having no sense of purpose in life
  • acting recklessly, violent behavior or self-destructive violence
  • giving away possessions or putting affairs in order
  • seeking access or having easy access to firearms, pills, or other means of harming oneself
  • increase in drug and alcohol abuse
  • previous history of psychiatric diagnosis
  • impulsivity and poor self-control
  • recent discharge from a psychiatric inpatient unit
  • family history of suicide
  • history of abuse (physical, sexual or emotional)
  • multiple health problems, especially a newly diagnosed problem or worsening symptoms

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