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Being in the Armed Forces means that you are exposed to a higher degree of risk and pressure than you might expect in other jobs.
We've got some practical information on how to look out for your teammates, how to discuss things with them and where to go for more support.
Support your team – stand by your mates
Here are some ways you might identify someone who is struggling to cope. Even if they are not suicidal they could probably use a listening ear.
- A normally outgoing person becoming withdrawn
- Missing parades or being late when they are normally punctual
- A loss of personal discipline
- Drinking more than usual or on their own
- Appearing distracted or “not quite there”
- Missing group activities or meals
- Having less energy
- Finding it hard to cope with day-to-day life
- Negative statements such as “it’s like everything is against me”
Suicide is complex, there is rarely only one reason why someone might take their own life. This list shows some potential reasons but there are many more.
- Recent loss of a friend or loved one
- The break-up of a relationship
- Losing custody of a child
- Heavy use of alcohol or drugs
- Mental ill-health
- Painful or debilitating injuries or illness
- Financial or legal problems
- Long-term separation
- Feeling isolated or like they don’t belong
An intervention is an act of kindness and you do not have to wait until a person is in danger to intervene. You can help someone just by giving them the opportunity to talk about their problems or thoughts. If you feel comfortable and it’s safe to do so:
- Choose a time and place where you can approach them privately and without interruption
- Encourage them to talk, focus on listening and be patient
- If you feel you can’t approach someone because of their rank then speak to someone who can, such as the welfare staff or the chaplain
You may not feel that you are able to provide ongoing support. To make sure someone gets the longer-term support they need, you could consider:
- Suggesting that they seek professional support within your unit such as with the medical officer, welfare staff, chaplain or a senior individual they trust
- If they do not wish to speak to someone at work you could give them Samaritans’ free helpline number (116 123)
- Using one of the additional support services at the end of this page
It can be difficult to know how and when to report something. You may worry about breaking the trust the person has put in you, or that not reporting it could put them in danger.
- Try to convince them to seek help and ask them who they would be comfortable speaking to. Do your best to let them feel in control and not to rush them
- Try to respect their privacy as much as you can and don’t share anything they have told you unless they wish you to, as long as they are not in danger
- Do seek help immediately if you think someone could be an imminent danger to themselves or others. You could speak to the medical officer, welfare staff, chaplain or your chain of command. It is important to make sure that the person is safe
All military units who wish to order the above booklets can do so via internal MOD ordering systems (using the MILLIE portal):
Details required for ordering are:
MSN number: 091LAN1387819
Description: Suicide Prevention and peer support in the Armed Forces.