Warrior Care and PsychArmor Unite to Promote Suicide Awareness for Service Members

By: KD Harris, Strategic Communications Specialist, Warrior Care and Victoria Carlborg, Education Manager at PsychArmor Institute

Suicide in America is a critical issue, with high rates in service members and Veterans. September is National Suicide Prevention Month. All month, mental health advocates, prevention organizations, survivors, allies, and community members unite to promote suicide prevention awareness. Asking the right questions and feeling confident about how to help are the first steps in preventing someone from dying by suicide.

Warrior Care’s mission is to proactively support wounded, ill, and injured Service members in their recovery and reintegration or transition to civilian life. The focus is to ensure the nation’s wounded, ill, and injured Service members, their families, and caregivers are not forgotten.

“We have several programs within Warrior Care’s portfolio that can support persons with mental health challenges and potential suicidal thoughts.  The Military Adaptive Sports Program (MASP) provides an outlet to support service members through adaptive sports and other recreational activities to aid with distress of their emotions. Peer Support Coordinators (PSCs) from the Military Caregiver Support team assist in connecting military families to programs for wounded warriors at risk of mental health, behavioral health and potential suicide ideations.

The Education and Employment Initiative (E2I) and Operation Warfighter (OWF) programs assists with employment, education and internship opportunities to help decrease stress in the Recovering Service Members (RSMs) transition process. The National Resource Directory (NRD) provides access to resources that connect wounded warriors, Service Members, Veterans, their families, and caregivers to programs and services that support them at the state and local community level,” said Program Manager Jonathan Morris.

One of those many resources to assist service members is PsychArmor Institute.  PsychArmor Institute, a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate a nation, has responded to this issue with its own call to action in the form of live training, participation in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Wellbeing in the Workplace initiative, employee readiness group support, and an educational portfolio focusing on Suicide Prevention, Intervention, and Postvention.

Whether you are a healthcare provider, service member, Veteran, family member, caregiver, or civilian, PsychArmor’s courses will help equip you with tools to be a lifeline for someone in need. There are free, online courses in PsychArmor’s library that teach fundamentals of suicide prevention, give tips on how to talk with a loved one who is having suicidal thoughts, and provide guidance on dealing with the trauma of suicide.

“Your education can start with asking the right questions,” according to PsychArmor’s subject matter expert Dr. Kelly Posner. To create an open, honest discussion about mental health, and to actively prevent more military members and Veterans from dying by suicide, learn about the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS). Also known as the Columbia Scale or the Columbia Protocol, Dr. Posner’s tool — which can be used by anyone — is featured in four courses that offer step-by-step instructions on how to use it.

“Those who have served, as well as their families, are at a greater risk of dying by suicide than people without military experience,” according to PsychArmor’s subject matter expert Dr. Craig Bryan. He narrates four courses in PsychArmor’s portfolio on the Crisis Response Plan (CRP), a simple and evidence-based tool that has been proven to save military and Veteran lives.  In his courses, he explains how to use the CRP.  You don’t have to be a healthcare provider — or have any training — to use the CRP and be part of the solution for someone who is having thoughts of suicide. 

Subject matter experts at the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) offer courses in suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. In “Finding Stability After Suicide Loss,” narrator and suicide survivor Kim Ruocco, MSW, explains that suicide loss survivors often find it hard to reach out for help, and the people in their lives are often unsure how to help.

Presented by an expert from the Department of Veterans Affairs, “SAVE,” is designed to equip anyone who interacts with Veterans to demonstrate care, support and compassion when talking with a Veteran who could be at risk for suicide. SAVE, which stands for “Signs, Ask, Validate, Encourage and Expedite,” offers simple steps anyone — whether a treatment provider, clinician, friend or family member — can take when talking with a Veteran at risk for suicide.

You can watch all of PsychArmor’s suicide prevention education courses here.

Other PsychArmor resources include a toolkit to help raise awareness in your community, discussion questions to accompany some of our courses, and resource lists to continue your education.

All the training described can be instrumental in the critical education of those on the front lines of providing care for Veterans and their families.  PsychArmor’s Chief Programs Officer, Dr. Carie Rodgers, says that healthcare providers will be better able to encourage Veteran patients to seek treatment if they understand and recognize the stigma that exists in military culture around getting help for mental health challenges. “It is critical for healthcare providers to understand military culture as well as barriers that keep members of the military-connected community from asking for help.”

If you’re a service member, Veteran, or their family and friends connect with the Veterans Crisis Line to reach caring, qualified responders with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The support is free and available 24/7. Call 1- 800-273-8255 and “Press 1”. Online chat and text messaging are also available.

For more helpful information about resources that can help aid in suicide prevention, visit Warrior Care and PsychArmor Institute.