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Portland VA Suicide Prevention Team STAND BY THEM Portland State University June 28, 2013 Aimee Johnson, LCSW.

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Presentation on theme: "Portland VA Suicide Prevention Team STAND BY THEM Portland State University June 28, 2013 Aimee Johnson, LCSW."— Presentation transcript:

1 Portland VA Suicide Prevention Team STAND BY THEM Portland State University June 28, 2013 Aimee Johnson, LCSW

2 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION Overview 2 Objectives Facts about suicide Myths/realities about suicide Operation S.A.V.E. Available resources feature=player_embedded

3 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION Objectives By participating in this training you will: Have a general understanding of the scope of Suicide Prevention within the Department of Veterans Affairs Know how to identify a Veteran that may be at risk for suicide Know what to do when you identify a Veteran at risk Develop a Suicide Prevention Safety Plan with anyone at risk for suicide. 3

4 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION What do we know about suicide? (AAS 2010) It’s a big problem – 10 th leading cause of death – suicides occur each year in the U.S. – suicides occur each day – One suicide occurs every 13.7 minutes – 6 new survivors of suicide every 13.7 minutes – More Suicides (#10) than Murders (#16) – In Oregon more likely to die by suicide than in a car accident.

5 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION The Face of Suicide in the U.S.(AAS 2010) Gender -Men take their lives at nearly four times the rate of women Race- American Indian and Alaska Native population - 8 th leading cause of death, 2 nd for those ages Highest rate of suicide among different races per 100,000 compared to 13.5 for Non-Hispanic Whites Age - Suicide is the third leading cause of death among year olds and the third leading cause among year olds Persons aged 65 years and older have the highest One older adult commits suicide every 90 minutes Veteran Status-Veterans may be at even greater risk than those in the general population 5

6 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION What We Know About Veteran suicide 2012 Suicide Date Report VHA Response and Executive Summary is the estimated number of Veterans who die from suicide each day (which has remained relatively stable over the past 12 years). The overall number of suicides nationally has increased although those suicides reported as Veterans has decreased. A majority of Veteran suicides are among those age 50 years and older. Male Veterans who die by suicide are older than non-Veteran males who die by suicide. The majority of Veterans who have a suicide event were last seen in an outpatient setting. A high prevalence of non-fatal suicide events result from overdose or other intentional poisoning. The most common means of male Veteran suicide is firearms and overdose is the most common means of female Veteran suicide. 6

7 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION Thomas Joiner’s Theory

8 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION Typical myths and realities Myth or reality: Asking about suicide may lead to someone to taking his or her life. 8

9 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION Typical myths and realities Reality: Asking about suicide does not create suicidal thoughts. The act of asking the question simply gives the veteran permission to talk about his or her thoughts or feelings. 9

10 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION Typical myths and realities Myth or reality: There are talkers and there are doers. 10

11 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION Typical myths and realities Reality: Most people who die by suicide have communicated some intent. Someone who talks about suicide gives the guide and/or clinician an opportunity to intervene before suicidal behaviors occur. Almost everyone who dies by suicide or attempts suicide has given some clue or warning. Suicide threats should never be ignored. No matter how casually or jokingly said, statements like "You'll be sorry when I'm dead," or "I can't see any way out" may indicate serious suicidal feelings. 11

12 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION Typical myths and realities Myth or reality: If somebody really wants to die by suicide, there is nothing you can do about it. 12

13 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION Typical myths and realities Reality: Most suicidal ideas are associated with treatable disorders. Helping someone find a safe environment for treatment can save a life. The acute risk for suicide is often time-limited. If you can help the person survive the immediate crisis and overcome the strong intent to die by suicide, you have gone a long way toward promoting a positive outcome. 13

14 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION Typical myths and realities Myth or reality: He/she really wouldn't die by suicide because… – he just made plans for a vacation – she has young children at home – he made a verbal or written promise – she knows how dearly her family loves her 14

15 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION Typical myths and realities Reality: The intent to die can override any rational thinking. Someone experiencing suicidal ideation or intent must be taken seriously and referred to a clinical provider who can further evaluate their condition and provide treatment as appropriate. 15

16 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION Operation S.A.V.E. Operation S.A.V.E. will help you act with care and compassion if you encounter a Veteran who is in suicidal crisis. The acronym “S.A.V.E.” helps one remember the important steps involved in suicide prevention: – Signs of suicidal thinking should be recognized – Ask the most important question of all – Validate the Veteran’s experience – Encourage treatment and Expedite getting help 16

17 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION Importance of identifying warning signs Many Veterans may not show any signs of intent to harm themselves before doing so There are behaviors which may be signs that a Veteran needs help Veterans in crisis may show behaviors that indicate a risk of harming themselves 17

18 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION Signs of suicidal thinking Learn to recognize these warning signs: Hopelessness, feeling like there’s no way out Anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness or mood swings Feeling like there is no reason to live Rage or anger Engaging in risky activities without thinking Increasing alcohol or drug abuse Withdrawing from family and friends 18

19 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION Signs of suicidal thinking The presence of any of the following signs requires immediate attention: – Thinking about hurting or killing themselves – Looking for ways to die – Talking about death, dying or suicide – Self-destructive or risk-taking behavior, especially when it involves alcohol, drugs or weapons 19

20 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION Asking the question Know how to ask the most important question of all… 20

21 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION Asking the question “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” 21

22 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION Asking the question Are you thinking of suicide? Have you had thoughts about taking your own life? Are you thinking about killing yourself? 22

23 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION Asking the question DO ask the question if you’ve identified warning signs or symptoms DO ask the question in such a way that is natural and flows with the conversation DON’T ask the question as though you are looking for a “no” answer “You aren’t thinking of killing yourself are you?” DON’T wait to ask the question when he/she is halfway out the door 23

24 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION Things to consider when talking with a Veteran at risk for suicide Remain calm Listen more than you speak Maintain eye contact Act with confidence Do not argue Use open body language Limit questions-let the Veteran do the talking Use supportive, encouraging comments Be honest-there are no quick solutions but help is available 24

25 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION Validate the Veteran’s experience Talk openly about suicide. Be willing to listen and allow the Veteran to express his or her feelings. Recognize that the situation is serious Do not pass judgment Reassure that help is available 25

26 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION Encourage treatment and Expediting getting help What should I do if I think someone is suicidal? – Don’t keep the Veteran’s suicidal behavior a secret – Do not leave him or her alone – Never negotiate with someone who has a gun, call 911 – Create a Suicide Prevention Safety Plan with the Veteran if they feel safe – OR Encourage the Veteran to Contact the 24 Hour Veterans Crisis Line , Press 1 Via Text TTY Line for Deaf/Hard of Hearing Veterans Chat with a Responder online at 26

27 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION Safety Planning towards Wise Mind Marsha Linehan, Ph.D.

28 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION STEP 1: RECOGNIZING WARNING SIGNS -Depressed thoughts and feelings, crying. -Thinking of loss of best friends and financial issues. -Experiencing stress, e.g. in traffic. -Coping with hearing of troubling news regarding wars in the Mideast. -Panic feelings including shortness of breath and sweating STEP 2: USING INTERNAL COPING STRATEGIES -Reading positive materials. -Taking long, relaxing walks. -Prayer. -Walking my dog. -Listening to music. STEP 3: SOCIAL CONTACTS WHO MAY DISTRACT FROM THE CRISIS -My brother Rob and sister-in-law Sue. -The gym. -Drag races. -Church and Church activities. -Attending AA meetings. Safety Planning

29 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION STEP 4: FAMILY OR FRIENDS WHO MAY OFFER HELP These are people that I would be willing to talk to about my thoughts of suicide in order to help me stay safe: - My Pastor Rex Smith My dad Thomas Doe My brother Rob Doe My AA sponsor John Greene STEP 5: PROFESSIONALS AND AGENCIES TO CONTACT FOR HELP TALK(8255) press #1 for vets - Veterans Crisis Line - Call 911 or come to the Emergency Department (or go to a local ED at own expense) - Your Therapist - Portland VA Suicide Prevention Team during business hours STEP 6: MAKING THE ENVIRONMENT SAFE - Discuss means restriction - Guns, guns, guns Safety Planning

30 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION Connect to the Veteran Call the Veterans Crisis Line at , Press 1 hEsidXY&feature=em-share_video_user 30

31 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION Resources Mental Health – VHA provides specialty inpatient and outpatient mental health services at its medical centers and community-based outpatient clinics. All mental health care provided by VHA supports recovery, striving to enable a person with mental health problems to live a meaningful life in the community and achieve his or her full potential. – For more information on VA Mental Health Services visit Vet Centers – Vet Centers are VA community-based centers that provide a range of counseling, outreach, and referral services. – For more information about Vet Centers and to find the Vet Center closest to you visit 31

32 VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION Resources Make the Connection – MakeTheConnection.net is a one-stop resource where Veterans and their families and friends can privately explore information about physical and mental health symptoms, challenging life events, and mental health conditions. On this site, Veterans and their families and friends can learn about available resources and support. Visit to learn more. National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – Each VA medical center has PTSD specialists who provide treatment for Veterans with PTSD. For more information about PTSD and to locate the VA PTSD program nearest you visit – PTSD Coach App: The PTSD Coach application, allows phone users to manage their symptoms, links them with local sources of support, and provides information on PTSD. Visit Portland VA Suicide Prevention Team Line: Aimee Johnson, LCSW Monireh Moghadam, LCSW & Joe Bertagnolli, LMSW 32


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