Download the "Veterans Who Have Transitioned From Service" Fact Sheet
Use this brief fact sheet to learn more about preventing suicide in Veterans transitioning from service.Download
Information for Veterans Who Have Transitioned From Service
Returning to civilian life can present new opportunities — and new challenges. Many Service members look forward to life after the military because they can spend more time with family and friends without the constraints of military structure or the disruption of deployments. At the same time, transitioning out of the military may raise a lot of questions. You may wonder what you are going to do with this new phase of your life, or whether you will be able to find a job. You may think about going back to school but not know where to start. Or you may miss the order and discipline of military life and wonder whether you will be able to adjust.
Your experiences in the service — both positive and negative — have made you a different person than you were before you entered, and may have changed the way you look at things and deal with people. Stressful or traumatic situations may have resulted in habits or ways of coping that may be misunderstood or may cause problems in civilian life.
What should I keep an eye out for while transitioning from service?
Most Veterans go through some period of adjustment as they transition from military service to civilian life. For some, the challenges continue — affecting their health and well-being, including:
- Frequently feeling on edge or tense
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Feeling angry or irritable
- Having trouble sleeping
- Feeling down for weeks or months
Helpful Ways to Ease the Transition From Service
Going from something familiar, like military life, to something new and different can be challenging. There are things you can do to ease the path forward and build a foundation for success:
- Reach out to other Veterans or to Veterans’ groups for social support. Recognize that others may not always agree with you or understand your military service, and agree to disagree
- Be prepared for insensitive questions or topics of conversation; practice how to respond before you hear them; respectfully decline to talk about things that make you uncomfortable
- Have a plan of action for your adjustment that includes a list of goals for your transition, future, and personal life
- Try to get a good night’s sleep as often as possible
- Exercise regularly and eat healthy meals
- Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing
- Avoid unhealthy “quick fixes” that you think may help you cope, such as drinking alcohol, taking drugs, or smoking cigarettes
Talking to your family and friends about your experiences can be helpful as you deal with your transition. These conversations will give them a better understanding of what you’re going through and an opportunity to provide you support.
If transitioning from service is interfering with your health and well-being or is getting in the way of your relationships, daily responsibilities, work, or ability to study, you may want to consider connecting with:
- Your family doctor, who may know you well and be able to offer support, guidance, and appropriate referrals, including those to a doctor who has experience treating Veterans if yours does not
- A mental health professional, such as a therapist or counselor
- Your local VA Medical Center or Vet Center (VA specializes in the care and treatment of Veterans.)
- A spiritual or faith-based adviser
Warning Signs of Crisis
Learn to recognize these warning signs of a mental health crisis. If you notice any of the following, get help immediately or encourage the Veteran to do so:
- Engaging in self-destructive behavior, such as drug abuse or reckless use of weapons
- Thinking about hurting or killing oneself
- Looking for ways or having a set plan in place to kill oneself
- Talking about death, dying, or suicide
- Saying final goodbyes to friends and family
- Putting personal affairs in order or giving away possessions
It’s important that you talk to someone right away if you have thoughts of harming yourself, death, or suicide. You can always contact the Veterans Crisis Line by calling 1-800-273-8255 and pressing 1, using the online chat, or texting to 838255. These services provide free, confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.