Jayne Davis, DCoE Strategic Communications on December 22, 2011
We hear about suicide prevention awareness every September, the month designated to bring national attention to this issue. At Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE), and many agencies, private organizations and nonprofit groups, every day is an opportunity to reach at-risk individuals through advocacy, crisis intervention and targeted resources.
I recently asked Dr. Colanda Cato, DCoE clinical psychologist, about her presentation to CrisisLink, a Washington, D.C.-based crisis and suicide prevention organization that provides a national 24/7 crisis hotline. At their “2011 Fall Forum: United in Hope,” Cato talked to CrisisLink counselors, staff and board members about military suicides, connecting with the people who answer those calls to the hotline from service members and veterans.
“The information we share about military suicides offers context and demographic data that could enhance conversations hotline operators have with military members, improve their ability to identify when a service member or veteran is at greater risk for suicide, and help manage those risks,” said Cato.
In this forum, Cato shared research on both behavioral and legal risk factors associated with military suicides that may also apply to suicides in the civilian population.
“Relationship, financial and substance abuse problems are often factors in suicidal thoughts and actions, regardless of the population,” said Cato. “Risk factors particular to military demographics can include being younger, lower ranking and on active duty.”
On the other hand, Cato identified certain factors that may strengthen an individual’s resilience to adverse circumstances. These include having family and community support, conflict resolution skills and the ability to regulate emotions.
Engaging with CrisisLink and other like-minded organizations holds another purpose for DCoE: identify and educate audiences about DCoE and its partners’ crisis assistance resources.
“This venue was a good opportunity to share information on resources such as afterdeployment.org, DCoE Outreach Center, Military OneSource, and Real Warriors Campaign, that counselors can direct callers to for more support,” said Cato. “The audience showed particular interest in the Real Warriors Campaign video profile of Army Maj. Jeff Hall, who shares his experience of reaching out for help with psychological health concerns as part of the campaign’s anti-stigma message.”
Putting a face to those messages confirms that with help, it’s possible to recapture healthy, productive lives.
Joining Cato in the forum was Lorijane Graham, suicide prevention advocate and author of a book on suicide and hope. Graham’s personal story of dealing with life after tragic loss to suicide by speaking out about it, and factors that could potentially prevent suicide, reinforces the Real Warriors Campaign messages of resilience, recovery and reintegration.
Cato summed up her experience with the forum with two messages she hoped the group took away from the event. “First, a common understanding of suicide, as well as risk and protective factors, facilitates prevention,” she said. “Equally important is getting the right resources into the hands of at-risk callers or those seeking help to support their service member or veteran.”
More help on the subject of suicide prevention and awareness can be found in these resources: