By Matthew Speer Megan Anne Phillips Thomas Winkel Wanda Wright Nicola Winkel Swapna Reddy: For More Info, Go Here…
“How has serving impacted you?” This simple question was posed to service members and veterans via Twitter by the US Army prior to the Memorial Day weekend. To date, the Twitter post has amassed more than 11,000 responses that collectively encapsulate the lived realities and consequences of military service—some positive, but most were overwhelmingly harrowing tales recounting post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, sexual assault, and suicide.
This blog post sheds light on the pervasiveness of suicide among veterans in the United States and the need for initiatives similar to a statewide community-based program in Arizona that has led the way in addressing this crisis. While federal, state, and local governments are all expected to align suicide prevention efforts, we hope to also galvanize health care stakeholders into acknowledging and actively participating in upstream interventions. In this way, we are able to offer our veterans and their families something far more meaningful than simply a passing thanks for their service.
Suicide As A Preventable Public Health Issue
Suicide is not a disease which simply manifests within the four walls of a clinical setting. We know that as many as 70 percent of veterans who died by suicide were not engaged with the VA in the two years prior to death. To address this gap, stakeholders must consider the confluence of social factors that impact the continuum of care for this population. Historically, suicide research has primarily focused on “downstream” crisis intervention and access to mental health services, such as therapy and medications. While these remedies are critical for individuals in crisis, thinking about suicide as a preventable public health issue requires reframing the conversation beyond the constraints of a health care setting. This includes “upstream” factors such as affordable and consistent housing, networks of social support, employment, education, and safe storage and use of firearms.