Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Navy Yard shooting:

Schumer: Better mental health programs could prevent future tragedies
Originally published: September 22, 2013 2:32 PM
Updated: September 22, 2013 7:22 PM

By EMILY NGO AND LAUREN R. HARRISON  emily.ngo@newsday.com,lauren.harrison@newsday.com

Photo credit: Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT | Booking photo
of Aaron Alexis, arrested in September 2010, on suspicion of
discharging a firearm in the city limits. Alexis is suspected to be
the shooter at the Washington DC Navy Yard on Sept. 16, 2013.
"Because if someone had reached out -- a mental health expert had reached out -- there might be 13 people alive today," Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. "But the system clearly broke down. One hand didn't know what the other was doing."
Schumer suggested the VA work with the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury to review how mental health treatments can be improved, how to help remove the stigma associated with mental illness and how to incorporate more mental health counselors into the Veterans Affairs workfor
Speaking at a news conference Sunday outside Metropolitan Hospital Center on Manhattan's Upper East Side, Schumer also called on the U.S. Defense Department to help the VA create a central clearinghouse where mental health warning signs, such as those shooter Aaron Alexis exhibited, can be identified. The center should have a 24-hour hotline for local law enforcement officials, he said.
Schumer also made the suggestions in a letter being sent Monday to VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki.
Lt. Col. Cathy Wilkinson, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Defense, said in a statement, "We are aware of Sen. Schumer's suggestions. We are committed to working with the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure service members have a smooth transition to the VA after their military service."
Wilkinson also pointed to ways that the Department of Defense works with the VA on mental health issues through the Centers of Excellence, such as an around-the-clock outreach center that provides psychological health information, resources and referrals to military members, veterans and their families.
The Centers of Excellence also manage a program to ensure that military members who receive psychological health care do not "fall through the cracks" when moving from one duty station to another, deploying or transitioning from the military to the VA's care. Coaches enhance the continuity of care and help service members maintain their treatment gains while they transition, the document said.
Alexis, 34, a Navy veteran, on Sept. 16 shot and killed 12 people at the Navy Yard in Washington. He was killed by police.
Weeks before the massacre, Newport, R.I., police had reported to the Navy that Alexis complained of having hallucinations. Alexis, before the shooting, also was treated at two VA hospitals.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Suicide Prevention Remains Ongoing Battle

09/13/2013 12:43 PM CDT                                                      Fri,Sep 13, 2013 at 10:22 PM
Senior Official Says
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

Courtesy Photo
WASHINGTON, Sept. 13, 2013 - The Defense Department and the military services have made inroads in suicide prevention, but work remains to be done, the vice director of the Joint Staff, told an audience of military chaplains here this week.

Army Maj. Gen. Frederick S. Rudesheim addressed the Chaplains' Resilience and Suicide Prevention Forum at the Pentagon on Sept. 10 to mark the observance of World Suicide Prevention Day.

"All the services are focused and engaged on preventing suicide and enhancing resilience, and have been for a while," Rudesheim said. "And we continually try to think of new and better ways to improve on our efforts. But I think there are a few things that haven't changed over the years. We've been working this a long time."

Many decisions can be made at the policy level, and programs can be executed, but ultimately, he said, "it's at the very lowest level where we're making a difference -- or not."

An important factor to remember in suicide prevention is that it's personal, Rudesheim told the chaplains. "It's [about] knowing the soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines, civilians, ... and chaplains are great at that," he said. "Chaplains know their folks. You build rapport beforehand.

The general said he appreciates chaplains for their immediate and direct contact with troops.

"As I've come up in the ranks, I've always gone to the chaplains to figure out how things are going in the unit," Rudesheim said. "The chaplains will tell me straight, and tell me what's on soldiers' minds, what's going right, and what's going wrong."

But suicide prevention is a longstanding effort in the military, he said. "It is not going to end. There's "no finish to it," he said. "There is no 'We finally beat this.' I don't mean to be a negative force, but I'm telling you we can drive down percentages, we can work this as hard as possible, and we need to."

Suicide prevention is not an issue that calls for a surge, but rather is something that is done as a matter of course, Rudesheim said.

"This is something we have to do as part of who we are, ... because it's going to be with us," he added. "There are external factors that drive things up and down, [and] ... there will be setbacks and challenges, but the fact of the matter is we're in the fight all the time.

"It's a constant effort and something we grow up knowing," he continued. "If we don't, there's something wrong with our upbringing -- and I'm talking about professional growth as leaders."

Rudesheim told the chaplains that suicide prevention must reach down to individuals directly and "grab them" on a personal level.

"We've made inroads. Some of the services have brought down their numbers," the general said. "But there's no declaring victory. There is just the fight, because it's what we owe our soldiers, airmen, [sailors] and Marines."

Army Maj. Gen. Frederick S. Rudesheim 
Related Sites:
Defense Suicide Prevention Office 
Special Report: Suicide Prevention and Awareness