Dr. Keita Franklin discussed suicide as a national problem in that it is the 10th leading cause of death in the US. Whereas 20 Veterans die by suicide each day, 169 civilians die by suicide daily. She noted that white male Veterans over the age of 55 and female Veterans are more vulnerable. Periods of transition also pose a risk, particularly the first 12 months after leaving active duty. She emphasized the need to design interventions based on data since complex factors (e.g., behavioral health issues, relationship problems, debt, unemployment) are in play.
What works for one person may not work for another so it is vital to look at actionable outcomes and assess the effectiveness of interventions. Also important is that only 6 of 20 Veterans are seen at the VHA prior to suicide. That means that the other 14 were not under VHA care. What outreach is needed to save these lives? Because there are 22M Veterans, VHA cannot do it alone, but must partner with community-based agencies and organizations. She pointed out that during transition, focus should be on both career readiness and social readiness.
Dr. Franklin promoted the need for additional gatekeeper training (e.g., SAVE by PsychArmor) and for prevention strategies that are universal, selective, and indicated. She also touched on the role of social media, suicides by military-connected kids and spouses, and the implementation of evidence-based interventions.