Defense Officials Testify About DOD Suicide Prevention Efforts > U.S. Department of Defense > Department of Defense News

Department of Defense officials testified today before a Senate Armed Services subcommittee about the department’s suicide prevention measures.

Karin A. Orvis, director of the DOD’s Office of Defense Suicide Prevention, was one of many witnesses at a Senate Armed Services Subcommittee hearing on personnel.

“I am deeply discouraged by the suicide rates in our military. Every suicide is heartbreaking, resulting in horrific pain of losing a loved one. It drives us every day to find answers to ensure those in need of help seek and receive this help. . And to make sure that no other son or daughter, brother or sister, or mother or father has to live with the searing pain and emptiness that never goes away after losing a loved one to suicide,” said she declared.

This is a common challenge, Orvis said. Nationally, suicide rates are alarmingly high, and the department continues to see increased risk for young enlisted military personnel.

The department uses suicide prevention practices that have been shown to be most effective by the wider scientific community, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she said.

Last month, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III led the creation of the Independent Review Panel on Suicide Prevention and Response to conduct a comprehensive review of the department’s efforts to prevent suicide that will inform progress. long term, she said.

Orvis also said the department uses enhanced training and research methodology in its suicide prevention efforts.

Ministry data indicates that suicide is often a sudden and impulsive act. Lives can be saved by adding time and distance between a person’s suicidal thoughts and a weapon or other means of harming themselves, she said.

Evidence points to the positive impact of safe storage of firearms and medication, she said, adding that it was also important to strengthen education of non-medical providers about suicide risk.

Dr. Richard Mooney, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for health services policy and oversight, said the department encourages people who need help to seek help and is working to eliminate the stigma associated with seeking clinical mental health services.

“The suicide rates among our military and our military families are too high,” he said.

The DOD is also working to have enough mental health professionals to provide timely care to 100% of active duty service members, he said.

Additionally, the DOD and the Department of Veterans Affairs co-developed clinical practice guidelines to address suicide and conditions that increase suicide risk, including post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, depression and substance use disorders, he said.

“We know from research that suicide results from a complex interplay of many factors, so although there is no one-size-fits-all solution in suicide prevention, clinical practice guidelines reduce undesirable variants in prevention and the treatment of those contemplating suicide,” he said.

“While we remain vigilant in our efforts to tackle stigma, the data suggests we are moving in the right direction. This is suggested by the increase in demand for mental health services, which indicates that service members feel less reluctant to get the help they need and deserve,” Moony said.