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Mental Health Research and Resources for Military Veterans and Families By Jim Lorraine, President and CEO of America’s Warrior Partnership

The month of May & June is recognized as Mental Health & PTSD Awareness Month, but it is important for military veteran communities to keep the conversation around mental health resources alive all year-round. There are many research projects that have recently been completed alongside the launch of new initiatives that are examining the causes and factors behind various mental health conditions ranging from post-traumatic stress to depression. More importantly, these projects are helping communities and veteranserving organizations identify beneficial forms of aid that they can offer to veterans, military families and caregivers who are in need. Our team at America’s Warrior Partnership is involved in several research projects related to mental health and wellness within veteran communities, and we hope the findings of these initiatives will inform service providers of the latest and most effective means of support that are available to veterans. Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reported in 2014 that an average of 20 veterans died from suicide every day. This is a serious issue that is made more complicated by the wide range of potential factors unique to each veteran that can potentially lead to suicide or self-harm. Most studies to date have generalized the potential indicators of suicide without focusing on the factors present at the local community level that may have an impact. A new research initiative launched earlier this year called Operation Deep Dive will examine this under-studied area and determine how the communities in which veterans work, live and receive support services can affect the potential for a suicide to occur. America’s Warrior Partnership launched Operation Deep Dive earlier this year in partnership with University of Alabama researchers and the BristolMyers Squibb Foundation. The four-year study aims 10

HOMELAND / June 2018

to identify the risk factors that lead to suicide within veteran communities by using unique methodologies that have never before been applied to such research. In addition to investigating individual risk factors, such as mood disorders or substance abuse, the project will track how a community’s engagement with veterans can affect the prevention of suicides. The project will study veterans across the spectrum of service, gender and lifespan to evaluate how factors such as a less-than-honorable discharge or an inability to receive support services may impact veteran suicides. For the first half of the study, researchers will work within seven communities that are affiliated with America’s Warrior Partnership to conduct a five-year retrospective look at veteran suicides and suspected suicides. Community Advisory Boards will also be formed in each community to ensure local medical examiners, community leaders and veteran family members will be involved in the direction of the research. Through this partnership, researchers will geo-map veteran suicides and suspected suicides within each community to determine the geographical and cultural contexts that may impact the likelihood of suicide. Building on these findings, the second half of the study will incorporate input from the Community Advisory Boards to conduct a “social autopsy” that

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Homeland Magazine June 2018  

Resources, Support & Inspiration (Veterans, Active Military & Military Families) www.homelandmagazine.com

Homeland Magazine June 2018  

Resources, Support & Inspiration (Veterans, Active Military & Military Families) www.homelandmagazine.com

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