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Pushing to Improve Mental Health Care: Military Connection

Mental-Health-300x234

By Debbie Gregory.

U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly has introduced three additional bills to up the quality of mental health care given to those who serve, past and present.

Donnelly’s “care package” for service members proposes legislation that would require the Defense Departments and the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide the best care for mental health conditions.  The bills also contain provisions to help train community health providers and new physician assistants in mental health care, addressing what Donnelly calls a national “provider shortage.”

A champion of our nation’s service members, Donnelly previously authored the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act. Army Specialist Jacob Sexton, home on leave from his Indiana National Guard unit in Afghanistan, inexplicably shot himself in the head during a movie with his two brothers and a friend at a Muncie movie theater. Sexton was just 21 years old. Passed late last year, the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2014 will help prevent suicide through three key provisions –

  1. Consistent mental health screenings at least once a year,
  2. Protecting privacy of service members, so that seeking help remains a sign of strength, and
  3. A report within one year of enactment, on what is working and what is not.

The legislation ensures that America protects and treats the mental health needs of those who keep us free. “For our vets, we’ve been losing 22 a day to suicide,” Donnelly said. “They have a place to turn to, they have someone to talk to, and they know they’re cared for and loved.”

Although many people are familiar with the above mentioned statistic, what is not widely known is that in general, for every suicide death, there are at least 4 suicide attempts. This problem is affecting a significant number of individuals who serve. Several surveys indicate that almost everyone in the military knows someone who has attempted or died by suicide.

Donnelly says his bills have bipartisan support.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go-to site.

Pushing to Improve Mental Health Care: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Army’s $65 Million Suicide Research

Army STARRS

By Debbie Gregory.

For the last few years of the war in Afghanistan, suicide rates were much higher than the casualty rates. Across the Department of Defense, all of the military branches have been actively and aggressively developing and reworking their suicide prevention programs. The Army has consistently seen the highest suicide rate among the service branches, often doubling the totals of the other branches. Looking towards the future, the Army is pouring a lot of funding and resources into reducing the suicide rate among its soldiers.

In 2010, the branch committed to a five year, $65 million program called the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Service members (Army STARRS). The Army STARRS program, which runs through the end of this month, intended to identify the factors that both put soldiers at risk for suicide, as well as the factors that protect them from committing self-harm.

The Army partnered with the National Institute of Mental Health and several educational institutions across the country in this effort to collect data to be used to in the effort to reduce suicides among soldiers. These research partners will ultimately analyze approximately 1.1 billion pieces of data, including Army records from 39 different DOD databases. The research will span everything from personnel records to criminal records to medical records, looking at factors such as family history and secondary conditions that could factor in suicide risk or prevention rates.

In an effort to nail down high risk factors among all of its personnel, Army STARRS consists of five study components: the Historical Administrative Data Study, New Soldier Study, All Army Study, Soldier Health Outcomes Study and Special Studies.

Since its implementation, Army STARRS has identified over 4,200 soldiers that were deemed to be at a higher risk of suicide. The detailed findings will be published at the conclusion of the analysis.

As a nation, we mourn the loss of every fallen service member. We also owe it to the men and women who serve to try to prevent future losses, especially when it comes to suicide. With the amount of effort and resources being put into this research, we can be hopeful that Army STARRS’ findings will have an impact on suicide prevention, for the Army, all service branches, and the nation as a whole.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the ArmyNavyAir ForceMarinesCoast Guard,Guard and ReserveVeterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Boardinformation on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Army’s $65 Million Suicide Research: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Study ties Veteran Suicide to Early Separations

military suicide

By Debbie Gregory.

A recent study found that there is no link between military/Veteran suicides and deployments, but surprisingly, connects high suicide rates to early separation.

The study was conducted by researchers at the Department of Defense’s National Center for Telehealth and Technology (T2). The researchers collected data on the 3.9 million men and women who served in the U.S. military between October, 2001, through December, 2009, during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The research found that even though the suicide rate among these service members had increased, the rate for those among them who deployed to a combat zone were not much different than those who did not deploy.

For the study, researchers reviewed the records of all personnel who served from Oct. 7, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2007, using materials obtained from the Defense Manpower Data Center, as well as death records from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner system and the National Death Index.

The research found that 3,945,099 individuals served during this time period. They also found that of the 31,962 of these individuals who have died during the six-year study, 5,041 of them were documented suicides. Of the suicides, 3,879 of them were committed by individuals who did not deploy.

The study found that service members who were at the highest risk for suicide were those who served for less than their full enlistment in the military. There was apparently an extremely high suicide rate among those who served for less than three years. The T2 research also found that the suicide rate among those who served less than a year, between 2001 and 2009, was two and half times greater than those who complete a full enlistment.

The research was designed to determine why these individuals were more prone to suicide. But the researchers do speculate, based on combining their data with previous research, that secondary problems (such as legal matters, injuries, substance abuse or mental health conditions) may have led to their early separation from the military and could have also contributed to their suicidal tendencies.

But for some, it could have been the transition itself that led them to take their own life. With separation from the military comes the loss of identity, loss of social support network, trouble finding meaningful and sustainable employment, or feeling like they don’t fit or are a burden to their loved ones or on society.

For more about the study visit the T2 website.

For more information on Veteran suicides or to seek help for yourself or a Veteran in crisis visit www.veteranscrisisline.net or call 1(800) 273- 8255 [then press 1] or text 838255.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Army Probes Alleged “Racial Thursdays”

ftwainright

By Debbie Gregory.

U.S. Army Base Fort Wainwright in Alaska is currently under investigation for racial hazing. The platoon of soldiers was reportedly given permission to use racial slurs against each other in what is known as “Racial Thursdays,” corresponding with the day of the week they are allowed to use their free pass.

The unit, 2nd Platoon, C Company, 3d Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, which belongs to the 25th Infantry Division’s 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, is the same unit that Pvt. Danny Chen belonged to. Chen committed suicide in 2011 while he was on tour in Afghanistan.

Authorities say Chen killed himself because he was hazed over his Chinese ancestry. Chen had planned to join the NYPD, and thought the Army would be good training. He wanted a steady income to help support his parents and thought college would be boring. Chen loved action and adventure, and wanted more of it in his own life. Nine months after he left for basic training, Chen was dead.

U.S. Army Alaska spokesman Lt. Col. Alan Brown confirmed that a commander’s inquiry was launched last week, but stressed there was no connection between the current case and Chen’s case, noting that leadership had turned over several times since the Chen situation.

A soldier, who asked to remain anonymous, was told when he arrived that ‘Racial Thursdays’ should continue to happen because it was “tradition.”

“The way it was put to me was it was a tradition among the guys,” the soldier said. “Every Thursday, they wouldn’t make you, you didn’t have to participate, but they’d remind you. Everybody would get a joke in or one person would be picked out and everybody would say jokes to that one person.”

The unit NCO, who is himself a minority, has refused to participate or put up with the practice, and has therefore received no abuse from the unit’s soldiers, but felt compelled to bring this to the media. He says the issue, among others, has been swept under the rug.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Army Probes Alleged “Racial Thursdays”: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Study Finds No Link Between Suicide and Deployment

suicides

By Debbie Gregory.

Assessing the instances of suicide in service members and veterans have been foremost for many years, but analyzing data specific to those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan has recently shown there has not been a higher risk in this group.

A study of 3.9 million military personnel who served in OEF and OIF revealed some interesting data.  Statistics have shown that instances of suicide among  active-duty personnel has increased since 2001, but within this cohort, there was no evidence of higher instances of suicide in those deployed to combat zones versus those who did not.

The results did reveal, however, that the higher risk of suicide was found in those who served less than three years, and particularly those who were discharged in less than one year of service.

The study was conducted by the National Center for Telehealth and Technology. Deputy Director Mark Reger, lead author of the study, was impressed with this early-discharge outcome.

“This is an important finding. It shows those who separated from military service had a 63 percent higher suicide rate overall.”  Reger continued by saying, “Why are these people at higher risk, we don’t have data to explain it.”

With the information revealed by this study, more research can now focus on why early separation from military service would cause a higher risk of suicide.  Medical records or personnel records were not factored.  Some considerations for future studies may point to either the reintegration process or the reasons behind a discharge from service less than three years.

The six-year OEF/OIF study included all troops serving from 7 Oct. 2001 to 31 Dec. 2007.  Where multiple deployments did have a slightly higher instance of suicide, Reger indicated that future research would identify combat exposure.

“Obviously everyone who deploys does not see the same level of combat, and that may have an impact, as do combat injuries or other factors,” Reger said.  Ultimately, the researchers want to assure troops are supported and deployment will not be an added risk to suicide.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go-to site.

Military Connection: Study Finds No Link To Suicide With Deployed Troops: by Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Top General Admits to Getting Counseling & Assistance

suicider

By Debbie Gregory.

Military personnel are highly reluctant to ask for help when they are depressed because they do not want to be seen as weak. But untreated depression is the number one cause for suicide, so those who are depressed and do not seek help are at risk for suicide. So what can be done?

To combat the problem of suicides by special operators, General Joseph Votel, Special Operations Command, is speaking bluntly about seeking help. Gen. Votel is urging his troops to follow suit

This can feel like a contradiction to the training they receive to push past their pain to reach a target on the battlefield. But the rate of special ops suicides, compared to other services, is a direct reflection of the strain these selfless heroes experience.

Gen. Votel spoke to several hundred current and former troops at a recent Washington conference.  “I have, with my family, sought counseling and assistance,” he said.  He also said that the stigma against seeking counseling is starting to change.

Votel has since ordered an update in training of how to spot the signs of stress, and with the Pentagon’s health affairs, a budget of $15 million this fiscal year is being dedicated to behavioral health resources for special operations. That, along with another $10 million in the special operations budget towards behavioral health and suicide prevention efforts, and another $1.2 million for the spiritual domain- which includes giving chaplains suicide intervention training and basil counseling training will help combat the stresses placed on soldiers.

What has arguably helped the most is embedding psychologists and other types of counselors available in special operations units and also borrowing the practice of using “military family life counselors” for operators and families alike.

It is really important to remember that being in the military is highly stressful, and those who serve are at high risk for PTSD, depression, and suicide.

Even one suicide is one too many.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Top General Admits to Getting Counseling and Assistance: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: DOD Posts 3rd Quarter Suicide Report

military suicide

By Debbie Gregory.

On March 9, 2015, the Department of Defense (DOD) released its Quarterly Suicide Report (QSR) for the third quarter of 2014, representing the time period of July through September.

The QSRs are posted on the Defense Suicide Prevention Office (DSPO) at www.suicideoutreach.org. QSRs are intended to communicate the DOD’s data on suicide and suicide prevention to the public on a regular basis.

For the sake of the report, the QSR defines suicide as self-inflicted death with evidence of intent to die.

The report shows that there were 56 total suicides among active-duty components from all branches of the military combined. There were 31 suicides in the Army, 12 in the Air Force, seven in the Navy and six in the Marine Corps.

While high, the third quarter count is significantly lower than each of the first two quarters of 2014. The first quarter suicide count for active duty components was 74, and the second quarter was 70.

Among the Reserve component for the third quarter there were 20 suicides: 15 from the Army Reserve, three from the Air Force Reserve and one each from the Navy Reserve and Marine Corps Reserve.

There were also 26 suicides among members of the National Guard during the third quarter, including 23 in the Army National Guard and three from the Air National Guard.

Service members from all branches and components need to be reminded that there is help available to them in times of crisis through the Military Crisis Line.The Military Crisis Line is available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Active duty service members, Reservists, and members of the Guard can access help at http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/ActiveDuty.aspx, by texting 838255 or by calling toll free to: 1-(800) 273-8255 [then Press 1].

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: DOD Posts 3rd Quarter Suicide Report: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Military Suicide Spike: By Debbie Gregory

Military funeralSuicide now tops the list of the leading causes of death among military service members.

American civilians have seen the public service announcements on military suicides. Veterans remember the briefings and the countless number of AFN commercials on the subject. And today’s service members are constantly trained on recognizing the signs of suicide among their comrades, and the resources that are available to them if they or someone they know should need help. But for all the awareness, for all of the effort, our service members are losing the war against suicide.

An October, 2014 article in the Pentagon’s Medical Surveillance Monthly Report (MSMR) provides eye-opening data on just how unsuccessful the results of the battle against military suicide are.

Before the current period of war, suicide was already the third-highest cause of death in the U.S. military. From 1998-2003, suicide was listed behind accidents and illnesses.

Not surprisingly, from 2004-2011, war was the leading cause of death. This span covers the height of fighting wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Suicide remained the third leading cause of death through this time period, behind illness.

But in recent years, the number of military deaths by suicide has exceeded those by war, accidents and illnesses, to become the leading cause of service member deaths. Approximately three out of every ten service member deaths are due to suicide.

The report cites data from Department of Defense Suicide Event Reports (DODSER). These reports revealed that between 2010 and 2012, there were 2,553 suicide attempts and 812 suicides within the military. The DODSER data also reflects that there were 53.6 suicide attempts  and 17.1 suicides per every 100,000 service members.

The vast majority of suicide activity occurred away from combat zones. According to the report, 85% of the suicide attempts and 83% of the  suicide deaths took place on U.S. soil.

Every suicide is a preventable death, especially when the bulk of those deaths are happening on our installations and in our communities. Please remain vigilant for the sake of the men and women in uniform, especially those of you in and near the military community.

If you observe someone who is in trouble, please refer them to the Crisis Hotline at www.veteranscrisisline.net or 1(800) 273-8255 (then 1). Those in need can even text to 838255 or utilize the Confidential Veterans Chat option.

The Crisis Line is for current military, Veterans and their families, but anyone can call for help for themselves or others contemplating suicide. All calls, texts, and chats are confidential.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Military Suicide Spike: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: You Still Have “The Power of 1” By Debbie Gregory

Still power of 1In September, Military Connection announced the launch of “The Power of 1,” a campaign administered jointly by the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The idea of the Power of 1 emphasizes the belief that one person has the power to recognize warning signs, intervene, create a dialogue, or make a phone call to save someone in crisis. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. It only takes one person or one single action to save another person’s life.

But as one suicide by a Veteran or member of the military is one too many, it is necessary to keep reminding those in crisis about the peer support and resources offered by the VA and the DOD.

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in America among all ages and ethnicities. And it is unbearably high in military and Veteran communities. But by using the mentality instilled in service members since boot camp to look out for their comrades, the Power of 1 campaign is hoping to sharply reduce the number of suicides among active and former military members. It’s just a matter of looking out for one another.

Some indicators that your buddy may be considering suicide include talking about suicide, making plans, stockpiling medications, and withdrawing from people and activities that were previously enjoyable. People at risk for suicide could also be going through the loss of a loved one, relationship issues, financial difficulties, drug/alcohol problems, legal trouble, medical problems and more.

The Power of 1 campaign is designed to empower individuals who see these indicators, and give them the tools to help, and possibly save a life, just as they would have done in combat. The campaign encourages those needing help, or witnessing comrades in crisis, to utilize the many resources available, such as chaplains, military family life consultants, mental health clinics, peers, community support organizations, Vets4Warriors and especially the Military/Veterans Crisis Line.

When people call the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, and press 1, they can have a confidential conversation with a peer counselor specifically trained to deal with any crisis or stresses the service member, Veteran, or family member may be facing. Calls to the crisis line are free, confidential, with trained professionals 24 hours/day, 365 days/year.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: You Still Have “The Power of 1” By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: “The Power of 1” By Debbie Gregory

powerof1September is Suicide Prevention Month. Suicide crosses all boundaries, including age, profession, gender, race and religion. In the military and Veteran communities, suicide claims hundreds of lives each year. It is for this reason that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) are launching “The Power of 1” this month.

“The Power of 1” campaign is based on the idea that just one small act can save the life of a service member or Veteran in crisis. Just one  kindness, one person reaching out to another in need, could mean the difference between that person finding help instead of losing hope.

“The campaign emphasizes the effect that just one person, one conversation, or one act can have on the life of a Veteran or Service member by offering hope and opening the door to support,” said Dr. Carolyn M. Clancy, Interim Under Secretary for Health.  “It also is designed to spread the word about VA and DOD mental health resources and suicide prevention efforts.”

“The Power of 1” focuses on the small, everyday actions that can play a pivotal role in improving, and possibly saving, a Veteran’s life. During the month of September, the campaign is broadcasting across the country via television, radio and social media. The VeteransCrisisLine.net will also offer “The Power of 1”  online, offering interactive tools that explain what the Veterans Crisis Line does, and how small acts make a difference.

The VA is also collaborating with community organizations, Veterans Service Organizations, and health care providers throughout Suicide Prevention Month.  There will be 151 VA Medical Centers across the country hosting local events, sponsoring health fairs, and working with the DOD to help spread the word and prevent suicides among service members and Veterans.

The goal of Suicide Prevention Month, “The Power of 1” campaign, and this coalition of supporters is to encourage service members, Veterans and the people in their lives to educate themselves about suicide risk, identify warning signs, and learn the steps to take during a time of crisis.

The Veterans Crisis Line offers telephone support, as well as online chat and text-messaging services. This confidential support from specially trained and experienced responders is complimentary. Any concerned party can contact the Veterans Crisis Line at (1-800-273-8255 and Press 1), chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or send a text to 838255.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: “The Power of 1” By Debbie Gregory