Reach-S Demonstration

American flag

An important first step to living your best MilLife is knowing it’s OK to ask for help. REACH-S — Resources Exist, Asking Can Help-Spouse — was created to empower military spouses to do just that.

REACH-S is an initiative for military spouses to destigmatize mental health challenges, normalize help-seeking and connect those in need with support. Facilitators can access materials to support REACH-S demonstrations through the links below.

REACH-S is implemented through small-group discussions divided into two sessions.

  • Session One focuses on military spouses’ barriers to seeking mental health care, solutions to these barriers and self-care practices.
  • Session Two focuses on the service member’s barriers to seeking mental health care and teaches suicide prevention skills to military spouses.

Resources

Facilitator Manuals

Facilitator manuals provide everything you need to lead both REACH-S sessions. Separate manuals are available for active-duty spouses and National Guard and reserve spouses.

 

Resources Handout

Distribute this comprehensive list of resources to REACH-S demonstration participants. This handout includes space to add local resources.

 

Session One

Demonstration Video — Session One

View this demonstration video of an example REACH-S Session One presentation, which focuses on overcoming barriers, finding resources and thriving as a military spouse. This video can help you prepare to facilitate your own REACH-S presentation.

 

Slide Decks — Session One

Download the slide deck to accompany your REACH-S Session One presentation.

 

Session Two

Demonstration Video — Session Two

View this demonstration video of an example REACH-S Session Two presentation, which focuses on supporting service members’ mental health and well-being. This video can help you prepare to facilitate your own REACH-S presentation.

 

Slide Decks — Session Two

Download the slide deck for your REACH-S Session Two presentation.

 

Looking for the REACH Facilitator Demonstration for Service Members

REACH materials are also available specifically for service members to get in front of challenges by seeking help early. Take the REACH Facilitator Training course on MilLife Learning.

 
Note: Military Research and Outreach (REACH) is an unrelated program that makes research about military families accessible and practical for military families, direct-service helping professionals and those who work on behalf of military families. Browse the Military REACH Library.

When a Service Member May Be at Risk for Suicide

Army soldiers talking

Suicide prevention is a serious issue for service members and their loved ones. Stress that never seems to let up can affect anyone, and some service members may be at greater risk for suicide than others.

National Guard members and reservists are of special concern because they often live in areas with limited access to health care services. Knowing when a person is at risk and recognizing the warning signs can help you take action to possibly prevent a suicide and make sure the person gets help.

Understanding suicide risk factors

Risk factors for suicide are conditions, behaviors or characteristics that may increase the chance that a person may try to take their own life. They are:

Life circumstances

  • Being a young, enlisted male service member
  • Difficulty readjusting following deployment
  • Lack of advancement or having a sense of a loss of honor due to a disciplinary action
  • Access to a lethal means of self-harm, such as firearms or medications
  • Loss from deaths and/or suicides among family or community
  • Loss of, or problems within, a close relationship
  • Financial and/or legal challenges
  • A recent return from deployment, especially when experiencing deployment-related physical and/or mental health problems
  • Transition from military to civilian life

Psychological issues

  • History of abuse, family violence, neglect or trauma
  • Medical or mental health challenges such as depression
  • Prior suicide attempt
  • Family history of suicide
  • Impulsiveness, aggressiveness
  • Alcohol and substance misuse
  • Severe or prolonged stress or combat-related psychological injuries
  • Overwhelming grief from a loss (death of a loved one, divorce, disabling injury, etc.)

Cultural issues

  • Limited access to health care
  • Religious beliefs that support suicide as a solution; negative attitudes toward getting help
  • Limited social and familial support

Understanding and acting on warning signs

As a family member, close friend or fellow community member, you may recognize the signs and changes in your service member’s behavior, and that puts you in a position to offer help.

Many suicidal people have mixed feelings about ending their lives and knowingly or unknowingly give off signals warning of their intentions. Call 911, contact the Veterans and Military Crisis Line at 800-273-TALK (8255) and Press 1, chat online or text 838255, or seek immediate help from an emergency room or mental health care provider if the service member:

  • Talks or writes about suicide, death or ways to die
  • Threatens to hurt or kill oneself
  • Tries to get pills, guns or other means of ending their own life

Contact a mental health professional or contact the Veterans and Military Crisis Line at 800-273-TALK (8255) and Press 1, chat online or text 838255 if you see any of these warning signs:

  • Sudden or dramatic changes in mood or behavior, including reckless or risky behaviors or changes in sleeping or eating habits
  • Feeling hopeless or trapped, saying there’s no reason to live or no way out
  • Preparing a will, giving away possessions, making arrangements for pets
  • Unusual spending
  • Withdrawal from others
  • Intense rage or desire for revenge; anxiety or agitation
  • Increased alcohol or drug use

Keeping the service member safe

If you believe a service member’s suicide risk is high, do the following:

  • Stay with the service member until help arrives. Never leave a person alone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts.
  • Remove any weapons, drugs or other means of self-injury from the area, if possible.
  • If you’re on the phone with a service member who you believe is in immediate danger, try to keep them on the line while you or someone else calls 911 or contacts the Veterans and Military Crisis Line at 800-273-TALK (8255) and Press 1, chat online or text 838255. Ask if there’s someone nearby who could offer support, and keep talking until help arrives.
  • If the service member is unwilling to accept help, contact command or law enforcement.

Learn more about suicide prevention.

Suicide Prevention – The Essentials

Mental health technician counsels a service member.

The Department of Defense is strongly committed to preventing suicide within our military community through suicide prevention, intervention and postvention initiatives. If you are in crisis, or you know someone who is, there are immediate resources available to support you or your loved ones. The Military Crisis Line connects those in need to a trained counselor with a single phone call or click of a mouse. This confidential, immediate help is available 24/7 at no cost to active-duty, Guard and reserve members, their families and friends. Contact the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, then press 1, or access online chat by texting 838255.

Learn more about suicide:

Suicide is a public health issue.

Suicide is a public health issue that affects Americans across all communities and walks of life, including the military. Its causes are complex and involve a number of factors, including biological, psychological, environmental, and social influences. A key goal of suicide prevention is to reduce risk factors and increase resilience and wellness.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

 

Suicide is preventable.

The Department of Defense embraces the public health approach to suicide prevention. This evidence-based approach shows that providing support services, talking about suicide, reducing access to means of self-harm and following up with loved ones are just some of the actions we can all take to help others.

If you are feeling alone, tap into the strength of your fellow members of the military community. People are the military’s greatest resource – each individual is a part of something bigger than themselves, protected, and understood. You can also turn to Military OneSource 24/7 for free resources and counseling to help you through challenges and daily stress before they become a crisis.

Each member of the military community has a responsibility to look after one another. If a service member or family member distances himself or herself from the community or begins to show any warning signs of suicide — such as threatening to hurt themselves, expressing feelings of hopelessness or increasing alcohol or drug use — call the Military Crisis Line or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Relevant Resources:

 

Everyone has a role in preventing suicide.

Suicide is not inevitable for anyone. By starting the conversation, providing support, and directing help to those who need it, we can prevent suicides and save lives.

Sometimes just talking to someone is a critical first step towards wellness and resilience. Encourage your fellow service members, family members and those you lead to ask for help before issues become a crisis. Resources from the DOD can guide you as you support those who may be struggling. Military OneSource can help service members and families address life’s daily stressors and get support for rebuilding critical relationships.

Relevant Resources:

 

Promote healing and minimize risk for survivors.

Many survivors experience a range of emotions including blame, guilt or anger. They may face mental health challenges from the experience. It is important to know that support is available to help in the process of rebuilding after loss.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

 

Suicide Awareness

Supportive hand

Suicide is a serious concern in military communities; service members and their families deal with a great number of stressors. Research shows that strong social connections and a sense of belonging can reduce the risk of suicide. The Department of Defense is committed to taking care of service members and their families and this includes supporting mental health. You can help by paying attention to those around you — or reach out to talk to someone if you feel you can’t cope.

Recognizing possible warning signs of suicide risk

You can help reduce the risk of suicide by offering support to those around you, and seeking help if you need it yourself. Keep an eye out for friends, family or coworkers distancing themselves from their community, unit or loved ones. Seek help if a person:

  • Talks or writes about suicide, death or ways to die
  • Threatens to hurt or kill themselves
  • Tries to obtain pills, guns or other means of self-harm
  • Suffers a sudden or dramatic change in mood or behavior
  • Expresses feeling hopeless or trapped
  • Begins preparing a will, giving away possessions or making arrangements for pets
  • Suffers from intense rage or desire for revenge
  • Increases alcohol or drug use

When a service member may be at risk for suicide

A service member under prolonged, constant stress or who is having a negative experience could be at greater risk for suicide. One or more of the following factors may increase the risk:

  • Being a young, unmarried male
  • A recent return from deployment
  • Combat-related psychological injuries
  • Lack of advancement or career setback
  • A sense of a loss or honor, disciplinary actions
  • Relationship problems
  • Grief from loss
  • Heavy drinking or other substance use problems
  • Mental or medical health problems
  • Negative attitude toward getting help

Suicidal people sometimes have mixed feelings about ending their lives and either intentionally or unintentionally signal their intentions. Contact a mental health professional or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 if you see warning signs, such as talking or writing about suicide, feeling hopeless or trapped or expressing an intense rage or desire for revenge.

Common misconceptions about suicide

Certain misconceptions about suicide can make it harder to get or give help. Separating fact from fiction can reduce stigma and connect people with support.

Myth: Suicide is planned, not impulsive.
Fact: Research shows it can take less than 10 minutes between thinking about suicide and acting on it. It’s important to intervene when someone talks about suicide.

Myth: Owning a firearm is not associated with suicide risk.
Fact: While owning a firearm does not cause someone to be suicidal, having access to a loaded firearm increases the risk of dying by suicide by four to six times.

Myth: Most deaths by firearm in the military happen during combat.
Fact: Most firearm deaths of service members – 83% – are the result of suicide.

Myth: A person at risk of suicide will find another method if you take away their firearm.
Fact: Research has shown that without access to a firearm or other lethal means, a person who is at risk of suicide will generally not look for other means.

Myth: The rate of suicide in the military is higher than in the general population.
Fact: After controlling for differences in age and sex, military suicide rates are roughly the same or lower than in the U.S. population.

Myth: Deployment increases suicide risk.
Fact: Although it may be a factor for some, studies show that being deployed is not associated with suicide risk among service members.

Myth: The majority of service members who die by suicide had a mental illness.
Fact: Less than half of service members who died by suicide had a mental health diagnosis.

Myth: Suicidal behavior is hereditary.
Fact: Suicide may occur more often in some families but suicidal behavior is not genetic.

Myth: Only mental health professionals can help those who are at risk of suicide.
Fact: Everyone has a role in preventing suicide, including friends, family, fellow service members and community members.

Myth: Talking about suicide will only encourage it.
Fact: Talking about suicide in a supportive way will not lead to suicide. It will give the person an opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings and get connected to the help and support they need.

Ways to help

Reaching out and building connections is an important way to reduce the risk of suicide. If someone you know seems to be struggling you can be there for them in the following ways:

  • Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
  • Be willing to listen. Allow them to express their feelings. Accept the feelings.
  • Be nonjudgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture about the value of life.
  • Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
  • Offer hope that alternatives are available, but do not offer general reassurance such as “It will get better,” or “It could be worse.”
  • Get help from persons or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.

If you believe a person is in immediate danger of suicide:

  • Stay until help arrives. Never leave a person experiencing suicidal thoughts alone.
  • Remove any weapons, drugs or other means of self-injury from the area.
  • If you’re on the phone, try to keep the person on the line while you or someone else calls 911, the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255). Keep talking until help arrives.

If the person is unwilling to accept help, contact command or law enforcement.

If you or someone you know is suicidal or in a state of crisis, you can contact the Military Crisis Line 24 hours a day (800-273-8255 and Press 1). You can also start a conversation via  online chat or text (838255).

Note: Military OneSource does not provide medical counseling services for issues such as depression, substance abuse, suicide prevention or post-traumatic stress disorder. This article is intended for informational purposes only. Military OneSource can provide referrals to your local military treatment facility, TRICARE or another appropriate resource.

Mental Health Matters in the Military

Mental health specialist speaks with a service member in her office.

Just as physical fitness is a central part of military life, good mental health is as important for your well-being, and military and family readiness. Mental health challenges and issues shouldn’t be ignored or hidden. There are lots of resources available to help anyone who is struggling with mental health challenges to feel better.

Recognizing signs and addressing challenges early

Start by learning to recognize signs in yourself or in someone close to you. Adults and teens who are suffering from a mental health disorder may display any number of the following signs:

  • Prolonged sadness or irritability
  • Feelings of extreme highs and lows
  • Excessive fears, worries and anxieties
  • Social withdrawal
  •  Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Denial of obvious problems
  • Numerous unexplained physical ailments
  • Excessive substance use

Help for you, fellow service members or family members

Reaching out is the first step towards recovery. These resources can get you started:

  • Check your mental health. If you are wondering if you have symptoms of a specific mental health condition, you can complete a brief screening tool and get instant feedback. This tool from the Department of Veterans Affairs is confidential and anonymous; none of the results are stored on your account or sent anywhere.
  • TRICARE is the health care program for military members and their families. The program is divided into two regions (East and West), and offers overseas assistance. TRICARE may provide coverage for medically necessary mental health services. Mental Health Care Services offers outpatient psychotherapy for up to two sessions per week in any combination of individually or as a, family, group or collateral sessions. The TRICARE Military Treatment Facility Locator is the locator tool for military treatment centers.
  • The National Institute of Mental Health provides information on a variety of mental health topics and list current clinical trials that allow persons to access treatment for free. Call 866-615-6464.
  • Mental disorders can lead to substance use disorders. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers information about prevention, treatment, recovery and more.
  • InTransition is a free, confidential program that offers specialized coaching and assistance to service members, veterans and retirees who need access to mental health care during times of transition, such as returning from deployment, relocating to another assignment or preparing to leave military service.

Mental health for children and youth

Signs in adolescents. Many symptoms in adolescents may be similar to those in adults, but you may notice other characteristics, including:

  • Defiance of authority, truancy, theft or vandalism
  • Decrease in grades
  • Intense fear of weight gain
  • Prolonged negative mood, often accompanied by poor appetite or thoughts of death

Signs in younger children and preadolescents. Young children and preadolescents may display some of the following characteristics:

  • Changes in school performance
  • Poor grades despite strong efforts
  • Excessive worry or anxiety (such as refusing to go to bed or school)
  •  Hyperactivity
  • Persistent nightmares
  • Persistent disobedience or aggression
  • Frequent temper tantrums

Finding help. For children’s mental and behavioral health care, reach out to TRICARE.

Mental and behavioral health concerns and conditions vary greatly in children and adolescents from adults, and special considerations apply for children of military families.

When to step in and help, or ask for help

Don’t let stigma stand in your way of helping — or reaching out. An estimated one in five American adults experience a diagnosable mental health disorder each year. Many of these conditions are common and treatable; yet many people suffer in silence because of shame and stigma. Facing issues early is a sign of strength.

You wouldn’t hesitate to seek help for a physical ailment. So reach out for assistance with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, and encourage others to do the same.

If you need help immediately: Suicide is a serious issue for service members and their loved ones — and suffering from a mental health disorder can increase the risk. If you or someone you know is at risk, the Military Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day. Call 800-273-8255 and Press 1. You can also start a conversation via online chat or text (838255).

Note: Military OneSource does not provide medical counseling services for issues such as depression, substance use disorders, suicide prevention or post-traumatic stress disorder. This article is intended for informational purposes only. Military OneSource can provide referrals to your local military treatment facility, TRICARE or another appropriate resource.

Resources for Understanding Suicide Prevention in the Military

A soldier walks through a dark tunnel with a light and tree filled opening.

Service members put their life on the line to protect our country. But serious risks may lurk in everyday life for some with intense trainings or as the pace of military life suddenly gets faster and for prolonged periods. And that can be even harder and more confusing to deal with as a loved one.

Suicide is a serious issue in the military. Significant life changes, stress and unique challenges of military life can make service members feel isolated, and some may be at greater risk for suicide than others.

You can make a difference in a loved one’s life by understanding when a service member is most at risk and knowing where to turn for help.

Learn more about when a service member may be at risk for suicide.

Times when a service member can feel added isolation or stress

As part of their network of support, it’s important to be aware of the moments in a service member’s life that can add stress on their mind or body. Service members do not have to be diagnosed with PTSD to be at risk for harming themselves.

Mental health issues can happen to anyone, at any time. Here are some points in a service member’s life when they can feel especially alone, agitated or anxious:

  • Around times of deployment or difficulty readjusting following deployment
  • Loss of a family member, friend or fellow service member
  • Career setbacks or disciplinary actions
  • Difficulty in a marriage or family life
  • Transitioning from military to civilian life
  • Financial difficulty
  • Major life changes

Some ways to be there for your service member in trying times

As a loved one, you know your service member best. Trust your instincts and talk to them if you think they may be having suicidal thoughts.

  • Mention the signs that prompted you to talk to them. Stay calm and let them know you are here to help.
  • Do not counsel them yourself. Ask questions and listen – but encourage them to get professional help if there is a threat.
  • Communication needs to be mostly listening, but ask direct questions without being judgmental, such as:
    • “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”
    • “Have you ever wished you were dead or wished you could go to sleep and not wake up?”
    • “Have you ever tried to end your life?”
    • “Do you think you might try to kill yourself today?”

Resources and mental health help are available

Knowing the risk factors, warning signs and where to turn is the best thing you can do for your service member. Support is available 24/7 both for your loved one in distress and yourself. If someone you know is suicidal or in a state of crisis, the Military Crisis Line/Veterans Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day (1-800-273-8255 and Press 1). Crisis experts are available via online chat or text (838255). Or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

It’s important to take care of yourself when supporting someone through a hard time. If you also need support, contact the Lifeline.

You can learn more about suicide prevention through the Defense Suicide Prevention Office.