Last week, I attended the joint DoD/VA Suicide Prevention Conference in Denver, Colorado. It was a privilege to work with Lisa Sullivan and Merily Keller from the Texas Suicide Prevention Council and with Tim Keesling from the Texas Veterans Commission’s Veterans Mental Health Program. The conference itself, held every other year, was a product of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act, which required the DoD and VA to consolidate information and work together to lower the suicide rate in both the active and veteran forces. I suspect this informative, educational, and inspiring week will further that goal.
I’ve been to few conferences so well run and accommodating and, given the topic, fun. Veteran, former congressman, and under-secretary of the Army Patrick Murphy was a great host and there was lots of facetime from Dr. Keita Franklin, the director of the Defense Suicide Prevention Office. Each day featured an educational keynote and there were too many breakouts to attend. Lisa and Merily and I would agree to split up and share notes later. At some point anyone will be able to download the various slide decks. Watch www.dspo.mil/Conference/ for those links.
After those two title-heavy paragraphs, if you are still reading, here are the three most important things I learned about preventing suicide at this conference:
People that are in the midst of an actual, death-resulting suicide may instantly regret it. Asking the questions in the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (and anyone can do it) will save lives. Ask and act. Community and a simple “how’s it going?” may be the best preventers of suicide out there.
Some of that information came from detailed, well-researched studies delivered to us by PowerPoint. The survivor’s information came from the mouth of Kevin Hines, who, in 2000, became one of the few people to leap from the Golden Gate Bridge and survive, regretting it “the millisecond my feet left the railing.” Watch this trailer for a film he’s working on and you’ll get a sense about it and his compelling appearance.
We’ll be putting more info out about the C-SSRS but here is a pretty good introduction.
I also learned that the Texas Model, the work TVC is doing with VMHP, the MVPN, and even our efforts at TexVet may not be perfect but are setting a standard the rest of the nation are interested in and working to catch up to. We’ve always got more to do but the pros and supporters in Texas are really getting after it.
You can learn more about the conference and DSPO here:
You can see the pictures taken by the Army pro at the conference here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/153047553@N04