A new national strategy for reducing the number of suicides by better identifying and reaching out to those at risk was released Monday morning in Washington.
The 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention report includes community-based approaches to curbing the incidence of suicide, details new ways to identify people at risk for suicide, and outlines national priorities for reducing the number of suicides over the next decade.
In conjunction with the report, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced $55.6 million in new grants for suicide-prevention programs.
The report was prepared by the U.S. surgeon general and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, a network of 200 public- and private-sector organizations.
The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Defense Department are launching an outreach campaign that includes new public service announcements aimed at battling a troubling rise in suicides in the military.
"All of us working together - friends, family, neighbors, the public and the private sector - can make a difference for service members and veterans transitioning back into their communities," the deputy VA secretary, Scott Gould, said in a statement. "Recognizing the warning signs of suicide and knowing where to turn for help will save lives."
"Suicide is one of the most challenging issues we face," Army Secretary John M. McHugh said in a statement. "In the Army, suicide prevention requires soldiers to look out for fellow soldiers. We must foster an environment that encourages people in need to seek help and be supported."
President Obama signed an executive order last month to bolster mental-health services for veterans and military families. The order steps up efforts that were already underway .
Among other initiatives, the executive order requires the VA to boost the capacity of its crisis line by 50 percent by the end of the year, and to make sure that no veteran in crisis has to wait more than 24 hours before being connected to a mental-health worker.
The Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs held a hearing in April after an inspector general's report found that the VA had overstated how quickly it provided mental-health care for veterans.
Some veteran advocates said they fear that reaching at-risk veterans will remain a major challenge despite the government's stepped-up efforts.
Kristina Kaufmann, executive director of the Code of Support Foundation, said providing new initiatives without explicitly stating to service members that the military is truly trying to improve care may still be an issue, Reuters reported.
Some veterans who had failed to get adequate service when previously requested will be harder to reach, she said.
"There are some people who for different reasons will never use anything connected to the VA, so that's why I think it's important to provide different options," said Kaufmann, whose group advocates for better ties between civilians and military life.
By Steve Vogel
September 11, 2012