• Hidden in Plain Sight … A Perspective on Suicide
    DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Kevin J. Steinberg

    Cmdr. Sarah Arnold is a physician trained in family medicine and preventive medicine. She served in the Navy for 14 years and completed two tours in Iraq. Five years ago, she lost her friend to suicide and was compelled to write about it, in part because she was the last person to see her colleague and friend before she died and also for her own healing.

    Two police officers stood at my front door. As I invited them in, they asked if I knew the whereabouts of my friend Dawn (name changed) because she was missing from the hospital. Dawn, a Navy nurse, and I, a Navy doctor, at the time, worked together. We went our separate ways, as we all do in the Navy after a tour is over. I was now in a residency program, and she was stationed at another clinic. That’s why I was surprised to see her one day at the hospital where I was working.

  • Suicide Conference Spurs Hope for Answers
    Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta addresses the audience at the fourth annual DoD/VA Suicide Prevention Conference June 22, 2012 in Washington, D.C. (DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo)

    We hear about suicide in the news, read about it on the Internet, and each of us in our own way work toward preventing the loss of lives. Rarely, do we get the opportunity to discuss suicide as a community. I was privileged to be able to attend and present at the fourth annual DoD/VA Suicide Prevention Conference. For me, it was a great opportunity to share my perspective on suicide prevention and to learn from leaders, service members and notable civilian organizations.

    During the three-day conference, the secretaries for the Defense Department, Department of Health and Human Services, and Department of Veteran Affairs voiced their concerns and future plan of attack to combat suicide. The secretaries spoke to the importance of ending suicides, providing quality programs and communicating suicide programs and research amongst departments, service branches, providers, peers and individuals.

  • Suicide: Not Just a Military Issue
    Photo courtesy of Sarah Heynen

    “He was the last person to take his own life.”

    These 10 simple words were repeated by several speakers on the TAPS Suicide Survivor Panel Session at the annual DoD/VA Suicide Prevention Conference, and they instantly brought me back to my own experience.

    I can remember it like it was yesterday. The day our eyes locked was like one of those movie scenes where the world around stops and everyone else goes into some blurred montage — except it was real life, my life. I fell in love. I found my best friend. We lived on different continents but with frequent communication formed a bond and closeness that I had never experienced.

    The next time my world stopped felt like a nightmare. I can also remember it like it was yesterday. The day I felt a pain so deep it didn’t seem possible and the animalistic screams of terror that I let out in pure reaction to the news.

  • DCoE Monthly Wrap-Up: Brain Injury Awareness

    When you watch and read about people affected by traumatic brain injury (TBI), you can understand how the experience can be life changing—not only for the injured person, but also for those who care about them. Throughout March, we increased our efforts to make you aware of signs and symptoms of TBI and resources available for service members, families and providers. Here is a round-up of last month’s news highlights and resources:

    • How to Prevent TBI
      Do you always wear a helmet? A seat belt when you drive? In many cases, TBI can be prevented by taking simple precautions. Share these tips to help you and your loved ones reduce the chance of sustaining a brain injury.
  • Frontline Psych with Doc Bender: 24/7 Help at Veterans Crisis Line
    Doc Bender on top of the Ziggurat of Ur in Southern Iraq, in February 2009.

    Dr. James Bender is a former Army psychologist who deployed to Iraq as the brigade psychologist for the 1st Cavalry Division 4th Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Hood, Texas. During his deployment, he traveled through Southern Iraq, from Basra to Baghdad. He writes a monthly post for the DCoE Blog on psychological health concerns related to deployment and being in the military.

    Hello. A friend at work recently asked me about patient confidentiality and suicide prevention hotlines. After our discussion, and speaking with a few others, my informal poll told me chances are there may be misinformation floating around. So I reached out to Patricia Lucas, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) suicide prevention coordinator for the Washington, D.C. area, and decided to spotlight a free, confidential resource for service members and veterans in emotional crisis this month—Veterans Crisis Line.

    Partnered with VA and National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the crisis line is available 24/7 by calling 800-273-TALK (8255) and pressing “1,” online chat or text message to 838255. In five years, the crisis line has fielded more than 500,000 calls and made more than 18,000 “rescues” where emergency services went to the caller’s location.