Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Suicide Prevention Not Preventing Them

Sen. Mark Kirk wants the head of VA Mental Health fired? Ok, but what had the Senate or the House done after all the complaints came in over the years going back to when this started in 2007?
Senator to VA: Fire your mental health director
Military Times
By Patricia Kime
February 22, 2016

Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk has called on the VA to fire its mental health director after an investigation found that calls made to the department’s suicide hotline went unanswered.

In a letter to VA Secretary Bob McDonald on Monday, Kirk, who chairs the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees Veteran Affairs Department spending, said Dr. Mary Schohn should lose her job over problems at the Veterans Crisis Line, which include veterans being placed on hold or sent to voicemail.

VA officials have said the problems stemmed from routing calls to backup centers when the New York based line was overloaded.

Employees at the backup centers were unaware they had a voice mail system, according to the report. Investigators also raised concerns over staff training and the qualifications and training of backup center personnel.

VA officials said Wednesday improvements have been underway at the hotline since early 2015 and more are planned. They also said they would implement the recommendations of the VA IG by the end of the fiscal year.
read more here
Perhaps the biggest question is, if all these veterans were calling the crisis line, then why do we keep losing them to suicide?
"The volume of calls to the crisis line increased 30 percent over the course of just one year, from 287,070 in 2013 to 374,053 in 2014, while the backup centers saw a 112 percent increase, from 36,261 in 2013 to 76,887 in 2014."

Think about that for a second. Actually the numbers would be even higher and that is the most important factor in all of this especially when you consider all the "awareness" raisers running around the country talking about the problem and asking for money.  Too bad they never talk about the solutions at the same time they haven't even put in enough thought to discover the simple fact they don't have a clue what the real number is.

Department of Veterans Affairs Suicide Report
To date, data from twenty-one (21) states have been cleaned and entered into a single integrated file containing information on more than 147,000 suicides and 27,062 reported Veterans.
In addition to the issues identified above, barriers to full project implementation include inconsistent availability of requested information in all states, barriers to providing non resident data and sending preference to provide de-identified data due to conflicting interpretations of Social Security laws. Negotiations with states are continuing as we begin requesting more recent years’ data as well as renewing or revising previously completed Data Use Agreements.
The ability of death certificates to fully capture female Veterans was particularly low; only 67% of true female Veterans were identified. Younger or unmarried Veterans and those with lower levels of education were also more likely to be missed on the death certificate.  

This decreased sensitivity in specific subgroups can affect both suicide surveillance and research efforts that utilize Veteran status on the death certificate. From a surveillance standpoint, the rate of Veteran suicides will be underestimated in these groups.

According to data provided by the United States Census Bureau, 93% of all Veterans are male and 21% of all males aged 18 years and older have history of U.S. military service.
When this is pointed out to them, they snap back with "it's just a number" insisting on using it because "it's easy to remember" but they seem to have forgotten, they were not just numbers they don't have to really think about. They were sons, daughters, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, parents and friends. If they didn't bother to read the whole report, that pretty much sums up how much effort they put into learning before they started talking.