USA — Outreach ‘Essential’ to Suicide Prevention, Official Says

WASHINGTON — Pre­vent­ing sui­cide among ser­vice­mem­bers and vet­er­ans calls for com­pre­hen­sive edu­ca­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion, the direc­tor of the Defense Cen­ters of Excel­lence for Psy­cho­log­i­cal Health and Trau­mat­ic Brain Injury said here today.

Tes­ti­fy­ing before the House Vet­er­ans Affairs Com­mit­tee, Army Col. Robert W. Saum said the Defense Department’s approach to sui­cide pre­ven­tion is “mul­ti-pronged,” and out­reach to troops, vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies is essential. 

“[The depart­ment] has devel­oped many resources and tools for ser­vice­mem­bers, vet­er­ans and fam­i­lies,” Saum said in his writ­ten state­ment. “How­ev­er, we real­ize uti­liza­tion of these resources is depen­dent upon pre­ven­tion edu­ca­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion about their existence.” 

Although psy­cho­log­i­cal treat­ment and coun­sel­ing are avail­able for those on the brink of sui­cide, he said, inter­ven­tion pro­grams also are in place to address stres­sors that may lead to sui­cide. Such pro­grams include coun­sel­ing for sub­stance abuse and for rela­tion­ship, legal, work and finan­cial issues, the colonel explained. 

Saum stressed the impor­tance of Defense Depart­ment col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Vet­er­ans Affairs Depart­ment and pri­vate-sec­tor orga­ni­za­tions. Saum’s orga­ni­za­tion serves as a cen­tral point of coor­di­na­tion for these groups, he said. 

“Con­tin­ued col­lab­o­ra­tion and coor­di­na­tion with [VA] and oth­er fed­er­al, pri­vate and aca­d­e­m­ic orga­ni­za­tions is the key to ensur­ing we reach our mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ty in the most mean­ing­ful way,” he said. “We col­lab­o­rate with the VA on many out­reach ini­tia­tives to ensure that ser­vice­mem­bers, vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies receive resources and access to ser­vices on a con­tin­ued and con­sis­tent basis. 

“[The cen­ter] works to iden­ti­fy best prac­tices and dis­sem­i­nates prac­ti­cal resources to mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ties,” he added. 

Saum not­ed the center’s work with VA to coor­di­nate resources and infor­ma­tion with the Nation­al Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion Life­line: 1–800-273-TALK. One of the more recent improve­ments, he said, was devel­op­ing an option for those con­cerned about a loved one or friend who may be suicidal. 

Address­ing the stig­ma issue also is impor­tant to the department’s out­reach ini­tia­tives, he said. 

“Stig­ma is a tox­ic threat to our ser­vice­mem­bers, vet­er­ans and fam­i­lies receiv­ing the care they need,” Saum said. “We rec­og­nize that out­reach is essen­tial for com­bat­ing stig­ma, encour­ag­ing help-seek­ing behav­iors and pro­mot­ing aware­ness of resources.” 

Sui­cide among vet­er­ans and ser­vice­mem­bers has been on the rise for the past five years, a “deeply con­cern­ing” fact for the depart­ments, Dr. Robert Jesse, prin­ci­pal deputy under­sec­re­tary for health with VA’s Vet­er­ans Health Admin­is­tra­tion, told the pan­el. At least 18 vet­er­an deaths each day are attrib­uted to sui­cide, he said, and about 50 per­cent of sui­cides among VA health care users are of patients diag­nosed with men­tal illness. 

“These are stag­ger­ing num­bers, and the data fails to reveal the true cost of sui­cide among vet­er­ans,” Jesse said in his sub­mit­ted remarks. How­ev­er, he added, VA is in the fore­front of sui­cide pre­ven­tion in the nation, not­ing sev­er­al ini­tia­tives launched by the department. 

VA has sui­cide pre­ven­tion coor­di­na­tors at each VA med­ical cen­ter, he said, and there has been sig­nif­i­cant expan­sion of ser­vices and work to alle­vi­ate the stig­ma of seek­ing help. Vet­er­ans Affairs sui­cide pre­ven­tion coor­di­na­tors helped to ini­ti­ate more than 600 infor­ma­tion­al and out­reach pro­grams in Feb­ru­ary, he said, result­ing in more than 1,500 vet­er­ans being added to VA’s “high risk list.” More than 90 per­cent of those vet­er­ans com­plet­ed safe­ty plans, he said. 

Also, VA’s aggres­sive approach to adver­tis­ing infor­ma­tion through pub­lic ser­vice announce­ments and oth­er means, such as bill­boards has helped, he said. Adver­tise­ments on bus­es and trains have result­ed in a “sig­nif­i­cant increase” to calls to the hot­line, he said, and social-net­work mar­ket­ing is the next step. 

Sta­tis­tics show that vet­er­an sui­cides are down, and VA and the Defense Depart­ment efforts are work­ing, he said. About 71 per­cent of vet­er­ans return­ing from deploy­ment and screened for men­tal health issues in 2009 con­tact­ed VA for ser­vices, he said. 

Ulti­mate­ly, he added, vet­er­ans who reach out to VA are more like­ly to need care and are found to be at a high­er risk of sui­cide. Get­ting vet­er­ans to step for­ward is the key, he noted. 

VA has tak­en a num­ber of steps to pro­vide com­pre­hen­sive sui­cide pre­ven­tion ser­vices, and the data indi­cate our efforts are suc­ceed­ing,” Jesse said. “But our mis­sion will not be ful­ly achieved until every vet­er­an con­tem­plat­ing sui­cide is able to secure the ser­vices he or she needs.” 

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

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →