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Suicide and Suicide Prevention


Suicide is a serious public health problem. In 2009, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States (2nd leading cause of death for adults ages 25-34, and the 3rd leading cause of death for youth ages 15-24.). A person dies by suicide about every 14.2 minutes in the United States, and it is estimated that for every person who dies by suicide, more than 30 others attempt suicide.

In 1999, the US Surgeon General released A Call to Action to Prevent Suicide which resulted in the development of the National Strategy to Prevent Suicide. On September 10, 2012 a revised National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (NSSP) was issued. The revised strategy emphasizes everyone's role in protecting friends, family members, and colleagues from suicide. The National Strategy was revised to reflect major developments in suicide prevention, research, and practice during the past decade, including: an increased understanding of the link between suicide and other health issues, new knowledge on groups at increased risk, evidence of the effectiveness of suicide prevention interventions, and increased recognition of the value of comprehensive and coordinated prevention efforts.

The Defense Suicide Prevention Office (DSPO), which is part of the Department of Defense's Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, oversees all strategic development, implementation, centralization, standardization, communication and evaluation of DoD suicide and risk reduction programs, policies and surveillance activities. To reduce the impact of suicide on Service members and their families, DSPO uses a range of approaches related to policy, research, communications, law and behavioral health. DSPO works with the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and National Guard Bureau to support our Service members and strengthen a resilient and ready force. DSPO strives to help foster a climate that encourages Service members to seek help for their behavioral health issues. DSPO has developed a guide (Supporting Military Families in Crisis, 20 Jul 13) which provides military family members with information on suicide warning signs and risk factors, actions to take when a family member is in crisis, and available resources to promote a healthy lifestyle and build a resilient family.

The National Suicide Prevention Initiative (NSPI) is a multi project effort to reduce suicide led by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Center for Mental Health Services. One of its projects is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline which is a 24-hour, toll-free suicide prevention service available to anyone in suicidal crisis. 1-800-273-TALK (8255). To ensure veterans with emotional crises have round-the-clock access to trained professionals, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is partnering with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to operate a national suicide prevention hotline for veterans. Veterans can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press "1" to reach the VA hotline, which will be staffed by mental health professionals in Canandaigua, N.Y. who will work closely with local VA mental health providers to help callers.

Primary care providers play a significant role in identification and treatment of patients with an elevated suicide risk. Information is provided below to assist primary care providers in this role.

Table of Contents

Clinical Guidance

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Policies and Directives

DoD/Joint Forces Army Air Force


Coast Guard

Veterans Administration


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Implementation Tools

Brochures and Fact Sheets

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Other Related Information

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Education and Training

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  • Military Suicide Research Consortium (MSRC is part of an ongoing strategy to integrate and synchronize U.S. Department of Defense and civilian efforts to implement a multidisciplinary research approach to suicide prevention.)

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