Preventing suicide among LGBT Veterans

by VHA Women’s Health Services and LGBT Health Program Office
VAntage Point

Suicide prevention is VA’s highest clinical priority. Our most vulnerable Veteran communities, including LGBT Veterans, face some of the biggest obstacles in seeking help. LGBT Veterans experience depression and suicidal ideations at twice the rate of heterosexual Veterans.

Today, it is estimated that one million of our nation’s Veterans identify as LGBT. Studies reveal LGBT Veterans accessing VA services were more likely to screen positive for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and alcohol misuse than non-LGBT Veterans.

“Treatment works and recovery is possible.”

Veterans who could not or did not serve openly in the military or concealed their sexual orientation while in service were associated with higher rates of depression and PTSD.

Suicide is preventable. Seek help early.

LGBT Veterans may experience chronic stress from discrimination. This stress is worse for those who need to hide their sexual identity, as well as for those who have lost important emotional support because of their sexual orientation. Interpersonal stressors such as a failing or failed relationship have also been associated with increased rates of suicide for both service members and Veterans.

Treatment works and recovery is possible. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, sadness, depression, stress, or any other warning signs of suicide, talk with your VA provider or therapist right away. Ask your VA provider about including mental health as part of your routine care. Don’t wait until you’re in crisis.

Know the warning signs of suicide.

Many Veterans may not show any signs of intent to harm thmselves before doing so, but some actions can be a sign that a Veteran needs help. Take notice if you or another Veteran is showing signs of anxiety, low self-esteem and/or hopelessness, such as:

  • Appearing sad or depressed most of the time
  • Feeling anxious, agitated, or unable to sleep Showing rage, anger, or violent behavior
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Engaging in high-risk behaviors
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness, failure, excessive guilt or shame,
  • Saying loved ones would be better off without them around
  • Neglecting personal welfare or deteriorating physical appearance
  • Exhibiting behavior that is dramatically different from their normal behavior

VA welcomes all Veterans

VA welcomes all LGBT Veterans to its facilities to receive high quality, respectful care. VHA personalizes health care to the unique needs of LGBT Veterans and develops and delivers training to VHA staff on LGBT health care.

VA is here to support you

If you or someone you know is in crisis, support is available 24/7. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available to all at 1-800-273-8255. Veterans, Service members and their families and friends can call the Veterans and Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat or text 838255.

Check out these additional resources:

VHA LGBT Health Program Office
VA facilities with LGBT Programs
Locate Your Local Suicide Prevention Coordinator
Veterans Crisis Line

Visit www.womenshealth.va.gov to access additional information, materials and resources for women Veterans. Get the latest news on LGBT-focused programs, health studies, policies and research in your inbox. Sign up for email updates.

About the author:  This article was submitted to VAntage Point by the VHA Women’s Health Services and LGBT Health Program Office.

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