Women Veterans Health Care
LGBT Veteran Suicide Prevention
Preventing Suicide among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Veterans
Suicide prevention is VA’s highest clinical priority. Every death by suicide is a tragedy and VA is committed to connecting Veterans who are experiencing an emotional or mental health crisis with life-saving support. 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. 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.
VA is committed to reducing Veteran suicides by leveraging a public health approach to reach all Veterans. This comprehensive approach focuses on five key themes:
- Improving the transition from military service to civilian life.
- Understanding the unique needs of different Veteran populations, even those who do not receive services or benefits from VA.
- Partnering across communities to help provide the best support possible to all Veterans.
- Educating the public about interventions to help individuals in times of crisis.
- Improving Veterans’ access to mental health care.VA is committed to providing timely access to high-quality mental health care that anticipates and responds to Veterans’ needs, focuses on their recovery, and supports their reintegration into communities. For LGBT Veterans, this means reducing disparities by providing specialized care, implementing a whole health approach, and providing mental health and wellness services before, during, and after a crisis point.
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 themselves 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 LGBT Veterans
VHA is committed to becoming a national leader in health care for LGBT Veterans assuring that high-quality care is provided in an open, sensitive, and respectful environment at VA Health care Systems nationwide.
It is important to start a conversation with your health care provider about sexual and gender identity. Studies show that LGBT Veterans can have lower overall health status. In general, they have lower rates of routine and preventive care, and higher rates of smoking, alcohol, and substance misuse.
VHA personalizes health care to the unique needs of LGBT Veterans and develops and delivers training to VHA staff on LGBT health care. Every VA facility has a LGBT Veteran Care Coordinator (LGBT VCC) to promote understanding of VA policies and best practices for serving Veterans with LGBT and related identities at their facilities. To connect with your LGBT VCC send the name of your facility to VALGBTProgram@va.gov.
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.
The responders at the Veterans Crisis Line are specially trained and experienced in helping Veterans of all ages and circumstances—from those coping with mental health issues that were never addressed to recent Veterans dealing with relationships or the transition back to civilian life.
Check out these additional resources:
- VHA LGBT Health Program Office
- VA facilities with LGBT Programs
- Locate Your Local Suicide Prevention Coordinator
Click on the images below to download posters
Links marked with asterisk (*) are external links. By clicking on these links, you will leave the Department of Veterans Affairs Website. VA does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of the linked website.
Download free viewer and reader software to view PDF, video and other file formats.