LEADERSHIP VOICES

Saving lives of active military and veterans
With M. David Rudd, PhD, ABPP

<< MORE VOICES

When I testified before the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs in May 2008 on suicide among veterans, I again saw how vital it is that we strengthen the public health impact of research if we are to save lives lost to suicide. NIMH-funded research must be more broadly disseminated so that mental health interventions are more widely implemented.

The tragic increase in both active duty and veteran suicide rates we've seen since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) underscore a very real fact about mental illness - that it can be fatal. As our National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (NSSP) notes, there are many diverse stakeholders in prevention of suicide - health care, social services, insurance, law enforcement, education, public policy and more. Fostering awareness, knowledge and cross-dialogue that lead to collaboration among these stakeholders is not only important, it's fundamental to the advancement of our NSSP.

As a practicing psychologist and clinical researcher whose work focuses on the assessment, management and treatment of suicidality (along with being a veteran of military service), I have reviewed treatment outcome studies targeting suicidality which have confirmed that simple things work and can save lives. Limiting and removing access to the suspected method can save lives. Removing barriers to emergency care can save lives. Patient tracking and effective follow-up for treatment non-compliance can save lives. Evidence-based treatments for depression, bipolar disorder and PTSD are effective and can save lives. We must advance knowledge of this potentially lifesaving information among professionals on the frontlines who interact with those at risk for suicide.

M. David Rudd, PhD, ABPP
Psychology Department
University of Utah