White House Unveils Roadmap Aiming to End Veterans Suicide Crisis

| June 22, 2020

By Patricia Kime

President Donald Trump on Wednesday unveiled a long-awaited plan by a White House task force to address the problem of veterans’ suicides — a “roadmap” that includes suicide prevention training across professions, a public awareness campaign, community partnerships and promotion of safe storage of weapons for firearms owners.

The President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide, or PREVENTS, was introduced in response to the troubling problem of veteran suicides, which occur at a rate of roughly 20 a day, including active-duty service members.

The task force that crafted the report was led by Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie and charged with providing a comprehensive approach to supporting veterans and improving their mental health outlook and circumstances.

The report calls for an end to the national crisis of suicide.

“The goal is bold and audacious but not impossible,” the report states. “As a nation, PREVENTS can equip all Americans with the knowledge and skills necessary to care for themselves and can reach those who are at risk — veterans and non-veterans alike.”

During the rollout Wednesday, Trump said the plan is designed to “mobilize every sector of American society to empower veterans and help them thrive after they leave” military service.

“There is no single solution to this issue — every resource must be brought to bear,” Trump said.

This is a multi-faceted approach that includes:
1) reduce the stigma of seeking mental health treatment,
2) educate the American public on what they can do to reduce suicide,
3) publicize risk factors and prevention,
4) promote safe storage of firearms and encourage gun safety.
It does not propose any firearms restrictions. Read the rest here: Military Daily

Category: Support the troops, Veteran Health Care, Veterans Issues

Comments (15)

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  1. 5th/77th FA says:

    Another warm fuzzy, we are doing something other than creating another layer of taxpayer funded, “we’re from the government, we come to help you” program?

    I grieve for everyone that feels that they must end their suffering by adding to the suffering of their loved ones they leave behind. It would be great if this program helps that problem. For some reason, I don’t hold much hope. If someone is going to off themselves, they are going to do it, one way or another. Some people are just broken and can’t be fixed. Sad, I know.

  2. old98z says:

    One eye is always on that front window. A bird flew by. Or the vegetation moved . Is someone moving out front?
    Check the sensors. Think about where the weapons are.
    Every frigging moment.

    • 11B-Mailclerk says:

      Learned survival habit, from an environment where such habits are essential.

      -Habits- are hard to change.

      Not to belittle or just-do your comment. It hit a nerve with me, big-time, and I was never in combat. Other environments produce a similar response.

      It is not a mental -illness- to acquire such habits in their proper place. We need to treat respectfully those who seek assistance with transition to new habits, or who just decide they are more comfortable with a bit more “wary” than others might like.

      “Want to change” is key. “Not damaging others” is a consideration.

      The root of it is a part of the brain, primitive and hard-wired to the nerves and glands. Our thinking brain can override it, but not disconnect it.

      Awareness of hazard.

      You know things, truths, that most folks are blessed never to learn.

      I certainly have no fix or comfort, other than encouragement to share with those trustworthy and those with similar “schooling”.

      And offer only that you just helped someone by having the balls to express your own world.

      • SFC D says:

        MRS D (who is an RN) and I discussed this type of thing at length. Old habits and old training die hard, and to the outsider, it may look like PTSD. Just because I still scan overpasses and get wary around unattended packages doesn’t necessarily mean I have PTSD issues. A few years ago, a doc told me it’s hypervigilence, not uncommon and not a bad thing unless it rules your life.

  3. Buckeye Jim says:

    I have much sympathy for anyone who has made the decision to commit suicide, especially if it had anything to do with military service. Having said that, I would really like to see the basis for the “20 suicides a day” statistic that is always quoted.
    For instance, if I kill myself, having retired 24 years ago after 26 years of service, technically it is one of these “veteran suicides” even though it would not be remotely related to military service. Also, “suicide” is not an easily defined cause of death. It still has such a stigma that I guess many suicides are not reported as such by the surviving family.

  4. Mason says:

    I feel like a poster of Uncle Sam saying “I want YOU to not kill yourself” would be equally as effective.

    • 11B-Mailclerk says:

      Well, I am not accepting of “think of it as Evolution in action” for folks who wore the uniform.

      It is not “nothing”. It is not “hopeless”.

      So…. What do we do?

      Simple to articulate “reduce suicides”. Much harder to action.

      A problem: we have made our society so nice, so safe, and so disconnected from the need for violent defense as a society, that the environment-successful serviceman is alienated.

      And suddenly, things are -not- safe. And that is going to trigger a surge, both isolation and stimulus related.

      Break the isolation. Connect with someone, and don’t allow your acquaintances to disconnect.

      Give a hoot. Do something based on it. Show it.

      I suspect buddy teams will do -far- more than national efforts.

      A near-total stranger, in the above post, said exactly the right thing for me today. (Thanks)

      One mind at a time. Hard work. You will get other people’s mess on yourself.

      Do what you can. It -does- help.

  5. aGrimm says:

    Here we go again with this BS.

    Let’s start with active duty suicides. Although only through 2014, this graph changes very little and principally depends on # of active duty which varies from year to year. This is a DoD chart and includes ALL of the services (Navy, Marines, Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, the reserve components of these Services, and the National Guard).

    Year Total suicides
    2002 – 171
    2003 – 190
    2004 – 195
    2005 – 189
    2006 – 214
    2007 – 226
    2008 – 267
    2009 – 310
    2010 – 299
    2011 – 302
    2012 – 352
    2013 – 286
    2014 – 254

    If anyone can derive 22 suicides per day from these numbers, they are doing liberal math.

    Next post examines veteran suicides.

  6. penguinman000 says:

    While the 22/day stat is misleading (at best), there is an issue with veteran suicide.

    If they want to get serious is addressing the issue, the answer is the same for vets as it is for civilians. We need more resources.

    Mental health care is resource intensive. You need a significant number of psychiatrists. Expecting someone to receive competent treatment when they only get to see their provider every 1-2 months (fairly common for outpatient psych at the VA) is silliness of the highest order.

    We need more psych docs and research. Not posters, awareness, or useless 800#s. And veteran orgs (such as the VFW) have to get off their asses and start reaching out to our brothers and sisters in need. Especially considering the vast majority of vets who commit suicide are 60+.

    • aGrimm says:

      The question is: are the veteran suicide numbers real? Without confirmation of veteran status in the States’ mortality records, any number generated has no validity.

      Regarding resources, the VA mental health division has a ton of resources. I cannot remember how many times Congress has dumped tons of money into the VA mental health division. However, all the anecdotal stories I read indicate that those resources and mental health personnel principally rely on medicating the heck out of those they see. What are we going to do, hire more pill pushers?

      I find it extremely hard to believe that veterans have a higher suicide rate than non-veterans upon turning 50 when their suicide rate prior to this age is well below the non-veteran rate. Veterans on the average do much better in life than non-veterans. Please explain to me what changes for veterans past the age of 50 that would push more into thoughts of suicide. Have the mental health personnel identified this mysterious change?

      • penguinman000 says:

        The 22/day stat comes from a VA study. They looked as suicides and attempted suicides across 20+ states. The study has issues (such as veteran status being difficult to identify, omitting California and TX, no consideration of duration or nature of service, etc..). Lots of flaws in the study but it does present some useful information.

        Across those 20+ states they found suicide rates for veterans ranged from 7-27%. News groups and non-profits grabbed onto 22/day because it makes a good slogan. Not because it’s accurate.

        Anecdotally, I’ve lost comrades I served with from suicide. Some had other psych issues (bipolar that developed later in life). Some suffered injuries that made their psych issues much worse. In one case it came out of the blue.

        As to your question about the “mysterious change” after 50, I have no answers for why the data shows what it shows. The answer to that question is better research. Not blindly throwing money at the problem or pretending it doesn’t exist.

        Re: hiring more pill pushers. That’s a complex question. When you look at comorbid conditions like bipolar disease, long term medication is clearly indicated. For other conditions like PTSD short term medication MAY be useful but the goal should be returning the patient to “normal”. There aren’t enough mental health resources to address things aggressively and early. Patients are lucky to get an appointment every 1-2 months.

        As it sits now, the system is overwhelmed. If the resources were adequate to aggressively treat initially for disorders like PTSD, then then the long term need for medication and therapy could dramatically decrease.

        The VA has tons of resources but it is poorly organized, has a dysfunctional leadership, and many of the staff need to be kicked in the head. My personal experience was so piss poor I have private health insurance vice relying upon the VA for anything.

  7. aGrimm says:

    Veteran suicides. Here is the report from which the 22 veteran suicides per day meme is derived.

    In this report,data for analysis is obtained two ways:
    1) VA data. This data is probably reliable
    2) State (21 States total) mortality data: This data relies on self-reporting, usually by family, of a suicide’s veteran status. Self-reporting data is notoriously unreliable. There is a high probability of stolen valor in this data. The authors of this study admit this fact but nevertheless presented their findings.

    Some findings:
    Page 22: More than 69% of Veteran suicides are among those 50 years and older. Study Table 4 (male) and 5 (female). Note that veterans under the age of 50 have a much lower suicide rate than non-veterans. All three tables incorporate the highly questionable State mortality records.

    The VA’s psychiatric side did, and continues to do, a fine job of obfuscating the data and hiding the problem inherent in the States’ mortality records. There have been other studies of veteran suicide, but none have addressed this problem. A simple study of matching suicides’ SSN with military records would determine what percentage of reported veteran suicides were actually veterans. My bet is that a large number of reported veteran suicides would turn out to be non-veterans. The same problem occurs with homeless veterans; veteran status is self-reported in all the studies with no confirmation of the status.

  8. jarhead says:

    Going out on a limb to insert my two cents worth in this subject. My experiences relate only to my time in RVN, but imagine the end game results are much the same with others that have worn the uniform and fought in other countries. Knowing that only 10% AD who actually fought while in wars is one thought. But those who were in-country of a war still made sacrifices whether admin folks, mechanics, etc. As B. Cyrus song goes, “All Gave Some, Some Gave All”. No matter which, all who participated suffered their own consequences of being THERE. So I can only personally relate to those who earned the CAR. We established meaningful relationships with those we could count on to cover our backs. Those memories will NEVER be forgotten. No doubt those who served in the various capacities in the “rear” likewise established their own friendships among others whom they thought they could count on if and when the s__t hit the fan. But among those serving out in the field, there came a special bond that will always remain in a special corner of our memory. IMHO, it is THOSE powerful friendships that can never be duplicated back on friendly ground or out in civilian life. Those thoughts are some of what I have seriously missed throughout my life. They are the ones I occasionally share when asked about experiences. Try as I may, there have rarely been friendships established back home that mean as much as those from RVN. At 75 my opinion is that most EVERYONE at one time or another has been through some difficult times, that’s life in general. Likewise, IMHO, there have been the most trying of times when many of us wondered if it was worth living at such times. The posts by aGrimm and Pman000 touched on the fact that the VA falls woefully short in figuring out a sensible plan to reduce veteran suicides. Shrinks and pills don’t do s__t for stopping suicide attempts. PTSD monthly meetings as well a bi-annual visits to individual shrinks accomplish little. Sure, some friendships are created among others who have worn the T shirt, but they will never solve the problem of lost friendships which could be counted on in times of need. My only suggestion (and that’s all it is) would be for the VA to do more to bringing vets together for activities shared (physical and mental) where vets learn once again to trust one another and know they have friends that can be counted on. The once monthly meetings and bi-annual one-on-one visits don’t even begin to fill in the needs for re-establishing solid relationships again. Yes, a good wife can do a lot for a man even in difficult times. And even more so, having a lot of projects to finish before your last day arrives….keeping the mind busy and active helps.

    It isn’t the VA’s responsibility to figure out what we need to do in order to remove the thought of suicide from our minds. Wait for that and time it with the day cows fly. Seldom does anyone mention the anti social behavior created and shared in those who have worn the T shirt. It likewise compounds the problem.

    So who has the answer? Damned sure not the VA!. No easy task, but it is absolutely up to us as individuals and groups of brothers to find and/or create the solution.