September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day. For anyone in any family where a loved one commits suicide, there exists the saddest of realities and a wake of destruction with unresolved questions, guilt and anguish. As you may know, Veterans are one of the largest populations hit by suicide.
Veterans are hard hit by suicide
The following article is a summary of what the Army is doing to prevent suicide. It is written by Kate J. Ray, RN, Behavioral Health at the Kenner Army Health Clinic. The article follows.
FORT LEE, Va. (Sept. 3, 2015) — The International Association for Suicide Prevention and the World Health Organization will observe World Suicide Prevention Day, Sept. 10, with the theme “Preventing Suicide: Reaching Out and Saving Lives.”
This observance acts as a call to action to both individuals and organizations that suicide can be prevented through education and intervention.
The Army has been concerned about suicide since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2008 that the rate of suicide among Army service members was nearly double the civilian rate. This led to the largest military-based mental health study ever undertaken, which involved the Army partnering with the National Institute of Mental Health to study the factors leading to Soldiers ending their own lives.
This year, some of the data from the “Army Study to Assess Risk and Resiliency in Service members,” or STARRS, was released, and it is helping to drive changes in the way the Army views suicide.
Several risk factors for suicide occur among civilian and military populations including: an existing diagnosis of depression or severe anxiety; recent behavioral health hospitalization; alcohol or substance abuse; chronic pain or a serious medical condition; experiencing a highly stressful life event; relationship conflicts; and bullying at work or among peers.
In addition, Army STARRS showed some military-specific risk factors – i.e. being an enlisted Soldier, having a recent demotion or having deployed – put troops at a higher risk for suicidal acts. The Virginia Department of Health reports veterans account for 22 percent of all suicide victims in Virginia older than 18.
Many times, people who attempt suicide show warning signs that they are at immediate risk. Indications include talking about wanting to kill themselves, buying a gun or hoarding medicine, talking about feeling trapped in an intolerable situation, withdrawing from friends and Family, giving away their possessions, or distinct changes in typical mood or behavior.
While knowing the risk factors is important to identify people at higher risk for suicidal behavior, it is often difficult for most people to figure out what their role is in helping to protect someone they have identified as high risk. With suicide, it is better to be safe than sorry.
If anyone believes someone they know is at high risk for suicide, it is vital to act immediately.
An easy to remember acronym for intervening is ACE:
- (A) Ask the person if he/she is thinking about suicide
- (C) Care for that individual by expressing concern about him/her
- (E) Escort them to a behavioral health clinic or hospital emergency room for evaluation and intervention. Do not leave the person alone.
Those interested in learning more about suicide prevention and intervention, should consider attending an applied suicide intervention skills training session offered on Fort Lee. The free, two-day program is designed to help equip community members with more advanced skills for intervening in suicide.
For more information or to register to attend, contact Kurtis Cherry with Suicide Prevention at (804) 734-3415.
Additional suicide prevention and intervention information can be provided through Kenner Army Health Center’s Department of Behavioral Health at (804) 734-9143 and Military One Source at 1-800-342-9647. For those seeking immediate help regarding suicidal thinking, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.
If you do encounter anyone who is threatening suicide, please do take it seriously and make sure they are getting the help they need. Rarely will someone commit suicide if someone is talking with them, caring for them and getting them the help they need.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network