Suicide Prevention Alliance Focuses on Troops, Veterans

WASHINGTON, Jan. 3, 2011 — A sui­cide pre­ven­tion task force for troops and vet­er­ans has been added to a nation­al alliance that offi­cials hope will help bring more atten­tion to the issues and offer solu­tions in the future.

The Nation­al Action Alliance for Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion last week announced that troops and vet­er­ans -– iden­ti­fied as a high-risk group –- were added because of their increased sui­cide rates.

“Com­bined with ini­tia­tives already under way by the Depart­ment of Defense and the [Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Affairs], this task force will fur­ther strength­en pre­ven­tion, bring­ing togeth­er the best minds in the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors,” said Army Sec­re­tary John McHugh, co-chair of the alliance.

The alliance was launched last year by Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates and Health and Human Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Kath­leen Sebe­lius, with input and sup­port of many pub­lic- and pri­vate-sec­tor stake­hold­ers, includ­ing the Nation­al Coun­cil for Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion and VA.

Speak­ing Sept. 10, 2010 at the launch of the alliance — a pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship — Gates empha­sized the impor­tance of a nation­wide approach to sui­cide pre­ven­tion. The alliance’s strat­e­gy pools fed­er­al and pri­vate-sec­tor research and resources to work on address­ing the nation­al sui­cide rate.

The mil­i­tary sui­cide rate has increased steadi­ly over the past five years, exceed­ing the nation­al aver­age of 11.1 sui­cides per 100,000 peo­ple. The mil­i­tary last year aver­aged 12.5 sui­cides per 100,000, accord­ing DOD reports.

The lead­ers of the alliance’s Mil­i­tary and Vet­er­ans Task Force are Dr. Jan Kemp, nation­al direc­tor of VA’s sui­cide pre­ven­tion pro­gram, and Mag­gie Haynes, direc­tor of com­bat stress for the Wound­ed War­rior Project, a non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion.

In addi­tion to the task force for ser­vice mem­bers and vet­er­ans, the alliance also estab­lished sui­cide-pre­ven­tion task forces for oth­er groups it deter­mined are at high risk: Amer­i­can Indi­ans and Alas­ka natives, and youth who iden­ti­fy as les­bian, gay, bisex­u­al, or trans­gen­der.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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