The AP (6/21, Freking) reports, “The Veterans Affairs Department hopes to reduce the risk of suicide among veterans by making greater use of video conferences between patients and doctors and by gradually integrating its electronic health records with those maintained by the Defense Department, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki told mental health professionals” who attended a suicide prevention held Wednesday in Washington, DC. Shinseki “oversees a department that members of Congress have criticized heavily in recent months for overstating how frequently patients are able to see a doctor or other mental health professional.” But, according to the AP, “as many as two-thirds of the veterans who commit suicide are not enrolled” in VA healthcare. As Shinseki put it during his Wednesday conference remarks, VA “can’t influence and help those we don’t see.”
Stars And Stripes (6/21, Shane) points out that during Wednesday’s conference, Shinseki “called for a national commitment to end military suicides, ‘not just controlling, reducing or managing those at risk.'” The “official theme of the conference this year is ‘back to basics,’ a call by officials to ensure that all caregivers are equipped with fundamental suicide prevention principles. But after the first day, the unofficial theme could have been ‘frustration despite progress,’ as mental health officials lamented lingering difficulty stopping suicide even after years of focusing on the issue.”
The American Forces Press Service (6/21, Parrish) notes, “The ongoing battle against service member and veteran suicide requires community, commitment, and attention to three critical areas, a senior Defense Department official said” on Wednesday. Addressing “attendees at the annual DOD and Department of Veterans Affairs suicide prevention conference, Dr. Jonathan Woodson,” assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, “said employing vigilance, reducing stigma and sharing success stories are essential to the struggle to end suicide.” The conference, which began Wednesday and “ends June 22, drew hundreds of health care [professionals], researchers, and others from what Woodson called a broad community of people from government and private industry working to understand and defeat the occurrence of suicide in the ranks and among the nation’s military veterans..”
USAF Monitoring Social Media Sites For Potential Suicides. The Washington Times (6/21) reports that the US Air Force (USAF) “plans to increase its monitoring of its airmen on Facebook and other social media sites for signs of personal distress.” That is according to Air Force Maj. Michael McCarthy, who on Wednesday “spoke at a suicide prevention conference sponsored” by VA and the DOD.
— “VA looking to technology to reduce suicide risks,”Kevin Freking, Associated Press, June 20, 2012.