The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

October 7, 2012

Learn signs of crisis, how to react


DANVILLE — All new employees at the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System go through training to recognize the signs of suicidal thoughts in veterans, and to learn how to respond.

Although many at-risk veterans may not show any signs of intent to harm themselves, there are behaviors that could indicate a veteran needs support.

The following information is provided during new employee orientation at the local VA and its outpatient clinics.

Veteran-specific risks

--Frequent deployments

--Deployments to hostile environments

--Exposure to extreme stress

--Physical/sexual assault while in the service (not limited to women)

--Length of deployments

--Service-related injury

Acute warning signs

--Threatening to hurt or kill self

-- Depression and hopelessness

--Looking for ways to kill self

--Seeking access to pills, weapons or other means

--Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide

Suicidal thinking


--Rage, anger, seeking revenge

--Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities

--Feeling trapped

--Increasing drug or alcohol abuse

--Withdrawing from friends, family and society

--Anxiety, agitation

--Dramatic changes in mood

--Feeling there is no reason for living, no sense of purpose in life

--Difficulty sleeping or sleeping all the time

--Giving away possessions

To learn about additional signs that someone may be at risk, go to

To help

Anyone coming into contact with a person who might be at risk should:

--Remain calm

--Listen more than you speak

--Do not argue or judge

--Use supportive and encouraging comments

--Notice hesitancy and body language

--Validate the person’s experience (acknowledge a person’s feelings)

--Recognize that the situation is serious

--Don’t pass judgment

--Reassure the person that you are there and willing to help.

--Reassure the person that treatment is available

Decreased risk

These protective factors may decrease risk:

--Family support and reason to live

--Spiritual support

--Mental health support

--Friendship support

--Social support/uses leisure time well


Other numbers

Besides the national crisis number, veterans and family members can find help at the Illiana System:

--General number, 554-3000

--Mental Health Intensive Case Management, 554-4153

--PTSD Clinic, 554-4257

--Substance Abuse Treatment Program, 554-4175

--Homeless Team, 554-5679

--OEF/OIF/OND Recovery Services, 554-4810.