The Department of Defense held its first Suicide Prevention Forum at Henderson Hall in Arlington, Va., last week as a part of the First Annual DoD Suicide Prevention week.
"We are naming 2003 as the Year for Suicide Prevention," said Dr. David Tornberg, deputy assistant secretary of defense for clinical and program policy. "This is a devastating and silent killer both in the military and civilian populations, and one which we must strive to conquer through enhanced scientific understanding and intervention." Following the presentations, a group of physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers, chaplains, line officers and enlisted personnel from each of the services developed the campaign plan for 2003 as the Year for Suicide Prevention.
Keynote speakers included international experts Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D. from John Hopkins; David Jobes, Ph.D. from Catholic University; Jane Pearson, Ph.D. from the National Institute of Mental Health; and Dr. Alex Crosby from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Representatives from each of the military services presented updates on their programs. Among the innovative programs discussed were an Air Force research project on the treatment of suicidal patients, a Navy and Marine Corps video that teaches sailors and Marines how to help a shipmate who may be considering suicide, and the Army's "virtual person" computer simulation that allows people to practice the skills they have learned in suicide prevention training.
After accidental deaths, suicide is the second largest killer of American uniformed services personnel. Suicide is also a major killer in the civilian community. It took the lives of 29,199 Americans in 1999. All four branches of service - Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines - are addressing this silent killer by working with researchers, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health professionals, doctors and others from a wide array of related disciplines.
"Research into suicide is still in an embryonic stage," said Jobes. Working with the services on their needs has provided significant advances in the field which will also have profound effects on how suicide is dealt with in civilian healthcare. Each of the services has developed in-depth programs uniquely designed to address the issue within their populations.
"Suicide can be prevented but we must take action" said Capt. Frances Stewart, chair of the DoD Suicide Prevention and Risk Reduction Committee. "'Everyone counts' is the slogan for the joint awareness campaign because at the heart of the matter we are there for each other."