Strong Relationships Are a Protective Factor Against Suicide

By Lytaria WalkerNovember 28, 2022

‘’I refused to die no matter how many times he tried to kill me,” says Army veteran Rita York. “I almost died every time.” A life of physical and emotional abuse by her ex-husband and boyfriends led York down a destructive path of alcohol abuse, depression and suicidal ideation.

York married her husband six weeks after meeting him, at age 18, while in advanced individual training (AIT). “I felt lonely and afraid during my time in AIT,” she recalls. “I was still a very young girl away from home. I lacked Family support. I didn’t know anything about personal relationships.”

York credits her pastor and church family for saving her life. She joined an online church in 2017 and has been a regular participant ever since. “My pastor is active-duty military, so he understands. He relates to me. My church family offers support and holds me accountable,” states York. Strong relationships are key to a healthy lifestyle, York emphasizes, adding that it is important to surround yourself with people who can uplift and encourage you.

There are many stressors that come with military life, such as heavy workloads and relationships that are severed due to moving. These challenges can lead Soldiers who don’t have proper support to engage in risky behaviors like substance abuse. That’s why it is crucial to build and maintain strong relationships—with teammates, Family and friends.

As Traci Waters, an Army Substance Abuse Program manager, explains, “Our personal connections can help keep us from getting to a dark place that may cause us to contemplate suicide. Connections, whether between friends or Family, can be protective factors against suicide. Building those connections and maintaining them is key to supporting our mental health.”

Healthy relationships involve honesty, trust, respect, support and open communication between individuals. When you’re in a healthy relationship, you can rely on the other person for love and warmth.

Strong, healthy relationships are also an important tool in suicide prevention. Sgt. Maj. Thomas Campbell knows this from personal experience. A survivor of a suicide attempt, Campbell stresses the importance of leaders knowing their Soldiers and forging strong bonds with them. “You are not weak if you show signs of suicide,” he says. “That does not make you weak. Get the help you need through friends, Family members or counselors.” Campbell said he wants service members to know that some issues can become monsters and that there are internal, emotional injuries others can’t see, but it is always OK to seek help.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal ideations and need to speak to someone, plesase call the Veterans/Military Crisis line at 9-8-8 and press 1.