Suicide is a serious problem among veterans. As we reported last Fall, an average of 22 veterans commit suicide every day. The VA is aware that this is a huge tragedy. That is why they have put in place programs to provide support for at-risk veterans, such as crisis lines and awareness programs, like The Power of One, which launched last September.
In addition to these programs, the VA is now focusing on training all their medical professionals to better identify those veterans who may be at risk of suicide. Although all medical personnel are trained to monitor their patients for signs of suicide risk, it can be very difficult to identify at-risk veterans.
To address this issue, the VA and the National Institute of Mental Health recently conducted a study of the VA patient population from fiscal years 2009-2011. The researchers divided the patients from those years randomly into two equal groups. Using information gained from the first group, they developed a model to predict suicide risk and then tested it on the second group of patients. They found that the model they developed from the first group was far more successful in identifying patients with high suicide risks than simply relying on information obtained in clinical settings alone. In fact, this model correctly identified 67% more at-risk patients than had been identified in clinical settings. That is fourteen veterans each day that could be saved from suicide.
The VA is now training medical professionals to use this new model to better predict and protect those veterans who are at high risk of suicide so that targeted care and prevention can be provided as soon as possible. This will allow the VA to not only improve clinical care but also provide better care through their Suicide Prevention programs.
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, help IS available. We encourage you to reach out to the Veteran’s Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, www.VeteransCrisisLine.Net, or to any of the many local suicide crisis lines.