19 Sep 2019

US DOD takes new approach to suicide prevention

The US DOD has created a new three-step plan to improve suicide prevention measures in the armed forces.

The DOD has created a new plan to handle the complex issue of suicide prevention among veterans and personnel. The director of the Defense Suicide Prevention Office explained the new approach at a conference in Nashville.

The department will also work with the Tragedy Assistance Program, which helps family members, to improve support. Dr Karin Orvis said at the conference that there is no one fix to the problem of mental health issues, and the numerous contributing factors must be acknowledged to improve the help members of the armed forces can access.

The three-step approach involves:

  • Data surveillance and reporting.

Starting this year, the DOD will produce an annual report on suicide figures. Dr Orvis said that accuracy and transparency must be standardised to produce better reports.

Dr Orvis said: “Transparency and timeliness is of the utmost importance to us. We must do better. We have much more progress to make.”

  • Programme evaluation

Program evaluation includes outcomes, not only in terms of suicide deaths and attempts but also in leading indicators such as unit cohesion, help-seeking behaviours and reducing barriers to care.

  • Public and private collaboration.

Dr Orvis said the DOD must work with federal agencies, nonprofit organisations, academia and community organisations. Currently, the department works with National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention on areas such as help-seeking, hope and education for those in need.

Currently, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs look to help high-risk veterans and those transitioning out of military service. The Defense Suicide Prevention Office runs a crisis helpline and, in the UK, Combat Stress provides help for veterans and members of the armed forces.

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