VA Suicide Prevention is leading the national charge with an array of strategies

Suicide prevention is often a question of strategy.

In 1964, the Academic Dean of Tufts University School of Medicine, Louis Lasagna, wrote a modern translation of the Hippocratic Oath: “I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant : I will remember that there is an art to medicine as well as to science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding can trump the surgeon’s scalpel or the chemist’s drug.

“I will advance the hard-earned scientific knowledge of those in whose footsteps I walk, and I will gladly share that knowledge…and remember that I am not treating a fever or a cancerous growth, but a human being whose illness may affect his family and economic stability.”

While the “surgeon’s scalpel” and the “pharmacist’s medicine” remain essential tools, let’s remember that our mission is above all personal: to take care of the individual and provide the necessary resources to facilitate their success. Often the most necessary and effective instruments of healing are our relationships, and at the heart of our calling is the development and dissemination of evidence-based best practices for the benefit of all.

Suicide is a national public health issue that affects people from all walks of life, claiming the lives of nearly 45,000 people in the United States in 2019 and affecting countless others. The risk factors are complex, individualized and varied. To illuminate the way forward, we must meet the diverse needs of Veterans with resources proven to not only reduce risk, but also promote wellness and balance to protect against future risk. .

More than three dozen projects to prevent suicide

The Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention (OMHSP) Suicide Prevention Program is leading the way with more than three dozen Exercise 22 Demonstration Projects aligned with the goals of the White House plan for the Military and Veteran Suicide Reduction and National Prevention Strategy. Veteran suicide.

These efforts coordinate the operational, clinical, and research directions of suicide prevention in program offices, Veteran Integrated Service Networks (VISNs), community partnerships, and VA health systems across the country.

Demonstration projects provide rapid funding and evaluation of suicide prevention innovations as OMHSP continues its strategic operationalization of the 2018 National Strategy through a public health approach combining community and clinical interventions in prevention suicide 2.0 and the Now initiative.

An example of a past demonstration project is VA’s collaboration with Forge VFR (veteran and first responder) to better understand and explore potential approaches to residential substance use care for veterans in a high service area. risk and high need. The initial exploratory and descriptive data offered insightful feedback to inform possibilities for prevention and intervention.

Project priorities aligned with the FY22 National Strategic Plan include the following:

  • To promote suicide prevention as an essential component of health care services and increase access to care across the spectrum, we are piloting integrated mental health services in pain clinics and oncology, and expand support for mental health services in primary care and staffing among suicide prevention coordinators.
  • To promote the dissemination of effective clinical practices, we are expanding the dissemination of evidence-based treatments for insomnia, short-term/intensive PTSD, anxiety, depression, and treatments for use disorders of substances.
  • To tailor solutions to at-risk subpopulations, we implement programs to reach Indigenous, geriatric, LGBTQ+, rural Asian American, Pacific Islander, and homeless veterans.

Advancing Emergency Services Safety Planning

  • To improve crisis care and facilitate transitions of care, we are advancing suicide prevention by improving emergency department safety planning and post-discharge follow-up, RISK ID, and REACH VET to increase patient engagement. high risk people.
  • To provide training to VHA and community staff on suicide prevention and related behaviors, we are developing new resources for suicide postvention, risk management counselling, early intervention/prevention.
  • To engage and leverage partnerships within and outside of government, we work with federal and state agencies, participating in Governor’s Challenges and conducting community gun safety trainings.

Pilot programs focusing on early interventions

  • To address upstream risk and protective factors, we are piloting programs focused on early intervention for veterans at risk of unemployment and establishing a National Center for Veteran Financial Empowerment to support success in the face of economic stressors causing the risk.
  • To improve engagement and expand support networks, we are advancing peer-to-peer, care coaching and care letter outreach programs.
  • To promote healing and implement strategies to help prevent further suicides, we provide counseling and postvention supports, suicide risk identification training and acceptance training. and engagement for healthcare providers.
  • To promote research and expand the evidence base for effective treatment, we support research at National Assessment Centers, States, and Centers of Excellence.

Like the oath above, and “To the best of our ability and judgment”, we advance these efforts to save lives, offer hope, and provide lightweight means to combat suicidal thoughts that threaten to overcome. We are grateful for the honor this mission brings and the opportunity to facilitate the successes of veterans everywhere.

Strategic orientations, priority objectives and national cross-cutting principles for suicide prevention are available at: Reducing Military and Veteran Suicide: Advancing a Comprehensive, Cross-Sector, Evidence-Informed Public Health Strategy and The National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide.