Life in a military family can be challenging for each family member, not just the member. Upheavals like permanent change of station (PCS) moves, school changes, and deployments can increase feelings of isolation, loss, and hopelessness – and they are all risk factors associated with suicide.
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and we want to share some of the resources available to help you and your children during stressful times.
“Connect to Protect is the 2020 National Suicide Prevention month theme, with the tagline ‘Make it your Mission to ‘Be There,’” said Christiana Montminy, the USCG’s employee assistance program manager. She knows firsthand that the research around suicide prevention indicates that connectedness is a factor that can reduce the likelihood someone will consider or attempt suicide. “Having social connections you can count on and a sense you belong can be a protective factor against suicide,” said Montminy. “While loneliness and feeling like a burden can increase the risk for suicide for some individuals.”
According to the Department of Defense’s (DoD) inaugural 2018 Annual Suicide Report, an estimated 123 military spouses and 63 military dependents lost their lives due to suicide in calendar year 2017. While these suicide rates for military spouses and dependents are proportional to that of the United States as a whole, suicide is a preventable personnel loss that impacts unit readiness, morale, and mission effectiveness.
When it’s time to ask for help
There are some specific warning signs if you’re concerned about someone you know or love. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), these include:
• Feeling like a burden
• Being isolated
• Increased anxiety
• Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
• Increased substance use
• Looking for a way to access lethal means
• Increased anger or rage
• Extreme mood swings
• Expressing hopelessness
• Sleeping too little or too much
• Talking or posting about wanting to die
• Making plans for suicide
When you need help starting that conversation with your loved one, turn to the Ask, Care, Escort (ACE) card, designed by experts to help you through every step.
If you are concerned about your children, but are unsure of what to do, talk to them. A common myth about suicide is that talking to someone about suicide will make them suicidal. This is not true. In fact, a protective factor for suicide prevention is the depth of family connection and support.
And most importantly, if you or your child are considering committing suicide, please do not keep it a secret. The Coast Guard is here to help you, as a family member of our workforce, stay healthy and safe. We know our members rely on their families for support – that’s why we want to support you as much as possible.
Remember, there is no shame in asking for help.
Where USCG family members can find help
As a family member of a Coastie, you and your children are eligible to participate in suicide prevention initiatives unique to the Coast Guard. This includes using our emergency suicide crisis hotline, which is toll free and available 24/7 – 855-CGSUPRT (247-8778). You can also learn more about the Office of Work-Life’s Suicide Prevention Program by visiting their website or visit CG-SUPRT’s website directly.
Since its launch in 2007, according to its site, the Veterans Crisis Line has “answered more than 650,000 calls and made more than 23,000 life-saving rescues.” There are many resources for you to get help. In addition to Your Employee Assistance Program Coordinator (EAPC) in your regional Health, Safety, and Work-Life (HSWL) office and the CG-SUPRT hotline, 855-CGSUPRT (247-8778), other suicide prevention resources available to family members can be found below.
• Your Employee Assistance Program Coordinator (EAPC) in your regional Health, Safety, and Work-Life (HSWL) office
• CG-SUPRT Program: 855-CGSUPRT (247-8778)
• Coast Guard Chaplains: (855) 872-4242
• Coast Guard National Command Center: 1-800-DAD-SAFE (323-7233)
• National Hopeline Network: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
• The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
• The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (For Deaf and Hard of Hearing): 1-800-799-4TTY(4889)
• The Trevor Project (Specific to LBGTQ+ Youth): 1-866-488-7386