FORT POLK, La. — Drinking alcohol comes with risks — to your health, relationships and one other often remains unspoken: Suicide.
No one situation or event leads to suicide. The factors of suicide are complex and may involve family history, mental health, relationship challenges and prolonged stress.
If you are a service member, other risks may include lack of advancement, career setback, feeling like your honor was lost, injury or health issues or a recent return from a deployment.
Deployments, temporary duty assignments and permanent changes of station may cause stress due to loss of connection with Family or friends, time away from home or changes to your day-to-day routine.
While alcohol does not cause suicide, it can play a big role. Some say it is the second largest risk factor for suicide and suicide attempts, right after depression. People who are thinking about suicide often turn to alcohol.
Rather than helping, alcohol can increase thoughts of suicide. Here’s how:
• When you drink, you make snap decisions without much thought. This is because alcohol slows down the part of your brain that controls thoughts, movement, speech, memory and messages between your brain and body. You are less able to solve problems and may have trouble seeing a positive future for yourself. This leads to dark thoughts.
• While trying to forget your problems, you may drink a great deal and unknowingly distance or cut yourself off from your unit, buddies, friends or Family. These are the people who can be most supportive during hard times.
Think about it. You may be in a situation where you are going through a tough time. Perhaps you aren’t sure how to make things better and you start drinking more.
Alcohol can cloud your thinking and pretty soon, you may see suicide as the easiest or only way out.
But there is help — and hope. Seeking help when you need it is a sign of strength and there are many ways to get help.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, you can speak with someone confidentially and anonymously. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.
The Department of Defense’s “Own Your Limits” website has many articles and resources related to the risks of alcohol misuse. For more information or additional resources check out www.ownyourlimits.org, http://www.ownyourlimits.org or call your local Army Substance Abuse program.