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The Nation Focuses on Suicide Prevention with Unique Interventions

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2012-09-10 15:18

Suicide is a growing concern, taking the lives of twice as many people on average as homicide, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). About 100 Americans take their own lives each day and more than 8 million U.S. adults seriously consider it each year. US Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and Army Secretary John McHugh have announced a plan to help reduce these devastating statistics.

"It takes the entire community to prevent suicides. It's not just one individual," says Dr. Benjamin. "We call can play a role."

One area of major concern is the number of military personnel who have committed suicide over the past year. So far in 2012, there has been a 22% increase in the number of self-inflicted deaths among our active-duty soldiers over last year. The Army announced last month that 116 took their lives during the first seven months of this year. The Department of Veteran Affairs reports that there were 17,754 suicide attempts among veterans, up from 10,888 in 2009.

General Ray Odierno, Army chief of staff, has said that suicides are now the most common form of death in the Army, claiming more lives than combat or motor vehicle accidents. The Marine Corps and Coast Guard also report increases in suicide rates. Nearly 20% (one in five) returning war veterans suffer symptoms of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

"There is a major health crisis facing those men and women who have served our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Terri Tanielian, a researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "Unless they receive appropriate and effective care for (their) mental health conditions, there will be long-term consequences for them and for the nation,” adds Gen. Odierno.

Dr. Timothy Lineberry MD, a Mayo Clinic psychiatrist and suicide expert for the Army said. "Despite the anticipated end of large-scale military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the effect on the mental health of active-duty service members, reservists, and veterans is only just beginning to be felt."

Thus, the need for a greater emphasis on suicide prevention.

The Action-Alliance, a public-private partnership advancing the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention has announced its most recent efforts intended to save 20,000 lives over the next five years. Following is a list of its first four priorities:

1) Integrate suicide prevention into health care reform and encourage the adoption of similar measures in the private sector. The Action Alliance will work in partnership with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

2) Transform health care systems to significantly reduce suicide. The Action Alliance will promote the adoption of “zero suicides” as an organizing goal for clinical systems by providing support for efforts to transform care through leadership, policies, practices, and outcome measurement.

3) Change the public conversation around suicide and suicide prevention. The Action Alliance will leverage the media and national leaders to change the national narratives around suicide and suicide prevention to ones that promote hope, connectedness, social support, resilience, treatment and recovery. This initiative will fundamentally transform attitudes and behaviors relating to suicide and suicide prevention.

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