[UPDATE] FSU to Help Military Wage War on Suicide

By: AP, Stephanie Salvatore Email
By: AP, Stephanie Salvatore Email

[UPDATE] 6:15 PM by Stephanie Salvatore

They put everything on the line when they put on their uniforms, sacrificing their safety at home, so they can fight for our freedom. But some of those American servicemen and women who are lucky enough to get back safely are taking their own lives.

"Suicide rates have been somewhat lower in the military than the general population which makes the trend that now its starting to nodge ahead of the general population's rate all the more worrisome," says Dr. Thomas Joiner, a psychology professor at FSU.

A new task report ordered by Congress says more than 11 hundred members of the armed forces died of suicide between 2005 and 2009, that's more than the total number of servicemen and women killed in Afghanistan since 2001.

But Florida State University is working to change that.

A 17 million dollar federal grant has been awarded to FSU and the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center to establish the Military Suicide Research Consortium. They plan to develop effective interventions, identify those at greater risk, and improve mental health outcomes overall.

"This is something that's frustrating to us in the field because we're working hard trying to makje a difference and we'd like to see that rate come down, we're determined to continue to work to have it come down, but the fact is it hasn't yet," adds Joiner.

Florida State will get 8 point 5 million in initial funding over the next three years. They hope to gradually build a digital library of suicide research to provide information for others.

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[UPDATE] 10-27 10:35am --

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — American soldiers are taking their own lives in the largest numbers since the military began keeping records, and the Department of Defense has enlisted the help of The Florida State University in waging the war against suicide.

A $17 million federal grant has been awarded to FSU and the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center to establish the Military Suicide Research Consortium. The consortium is the first of its kind to integrate DOD and civilian efforts in implementing a multidisciplinary research approach to suicide prevention.

Florida State’s Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor Thomas Joiner, an internationally known suicide researcher, and Peter Gutierrez, a leading suicide expert and clinical/research psychologist with the VA’s Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center at the Denver VA Medical Center, will lead the consortium. Each institution will receive $8.5 million in initial funding over the next three years.

The new consortium comes as the military struggles with a surging suicide rate that now exceeds the rate of suicide in the general population. More than 1,100 members of the armed forces died by suicide from 2005 to 2009 — that’s more than the total number of servicemen and women killed in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001 — and suicides are rising again this year, according to a new task force report ordered by Congress.

“These suicides have deeply affected the military leadership, and they are desperate to do something about it,” Joiner said. “For many in the military, they never knew the misery of suicide, and now they do. They are agonizing over this. They say it hurts every bit as much as losing someone in combat, maybe more.”

Despite the new trend of suicide in the military, very little medical research has actually been done on the subject, said Joiner, who is also the Bright-Burton Professor of Psychology and a Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology at FSU. There’s no doubt that the trauma of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq plays a role, but that doesn’t explain why some soldiers take their own lives and others who share the same experience don’t.

“Soldiers see a lot of violence, they see death, they see the people who are closest to them in the world get killed, and they themselves are often seriously injured,” Joiner said. “That’s part of it, but that’s true of all of them, so why some and not others?”

Joiner and Gutierrez are exploring that question in order to develop better assessment tools to identify those at greatest risk and testing interventions in order to save lives.

“Assessing those at risk for suicide has been the focus of extensive research in the civilian sector,” Gutierrez said. “However, very little is currently known about how relevant existing tools are when applied to the military. This consortium will allow us to determine how best to screen and assess personnel, develop effective interventions and ultimately to reduce suicides.”

The U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command Military Operational Medicine Research Program (MOMRP) established the consortium to coordinate and focus research efforts across the DOD and all branches of the military. The MOMRP is a unique biomedical research program that focuses on providing biomedical solutions that protect soldiers and enhance their performance in operational and training environments.

“We want to develop a comprehensive approach to prevent suicide and improve mental health outcomes for men and women in uniform,” said Col. Carl Castro, director of the MOMRP.

Castro said the consortium aims to yield new scientific data on suicidal behavior in the military and to provide the scientific basis for policy recommendations and clinical practice guidelines.

Building an integrated digital library of suicide research will be key to the consortium’s effort to provide and disseminate information. Florida State School of Library and Information Studies Professor Greg Riccardi will head the effort to collect, analyze and organize research publications that are relevant to suicidal behavior in the military and develop a rapid response system to provide information to policymakers and others.

“Officials want to have a fast and accurate way of searching for the resources that will allow them to make informed decisions,” Riccardi said. “We will be creating a warehouse of all available research information relevant to suicidal behavior and a search system that will allow people to pose questions about specific areas of interest and to receive ranked lists of relevant information resources. The system will be continually updated as new information becomes available.”

Florida State Professor Richard Wagner, Professor Chris Schatschneider and Associate Professor Jon Maner, all of the psychology department, and statistics Professor Daniel McGee also are members of the consortium and will provide data analysis and consulting.

Stay with WCTV for more on the story.

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AP -

The Army is announcing a $17 million, three-year effort to learn why soldiers and veterans take their own lives.

The Army's Military Operational Medicine Research Program at
Fort Detrick, Md., said Wednesday the money will be split evenly
between the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Florida
State University.

Suicide researchers at the two institutions will serve as
co-directors of the Military Suicide Research Consortium.

The Pentagon has been trying to reverse rising suicide numbers.
More than 1,100 servicemen and women killed themselves between 2005
and 2009.

In July, the Army announced a $50 million study of suicide and
mental health involving about 500,000 service members and four
other research institutions.

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Tallahassee, Florida --

The Florida State University, along with members of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command and the Department of Veterans Affairs Denver VA Medical Center, will host a media availability on Wednesday, Oct. 27, to announce a major new research effort to address suicide in the military.

Florida State’s Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor Thomas Joiner, an internationally known suicide researcher, will be available to discuss his role in the new initiative and how it will help the military meet its objective to reduce military suicides. He is expected to be joined by teleconference by Col. Carl Castro, director of the Military Operational Medicine Research Program, and Peter Gutierrez, a leading suicide expert and clinical/research psychologist with the Denver VA Medical Center.

The availability will take place:

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 27

11 A.M. EST

ROOM 215

AUGUSTUS B. TURNBULL III FLORIDA STATE CONFERENCE CENTER

555 W. PENSACOLA ST.

TALLAHASSEE

Directions to the Turnbull Center from Downtown: Travel on West Pensacola Street past the front of the Conference Center. Turn left on Copeland Street and then left on St. Augustine Street. Turn left into the first floor of the garage at the St. Augustine entrance. There will be a limited number of reserved metered spaces on the right.


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