How Investigation of Military Suicides can Improve Prevention Resources

Understanding military-involved suicides to improve prevention in Wisconsin

Full Project Name:Remembering the Lost: How Investigation of Military Suicides can Improve Prevention ResourcesPrimary Community Organization:Mental Health America of Wisconsin (MHA)Primary Academic Partner:Sara Kohlbeck, MPH, Emergency MedicinePrincipal Investigator:Stephen Hargarten, MD, Emergency MedicineAward Amount:$399,771
Award Date
Project Duration:36 months

Project Description Narrative:

In Wisconsin, death by suicide is the tenth leading cause of death. This rate is even higher for veteran and active-duty military service members. Of veterans who die by suicide, approximately 70% are not engaged with any health care services through the Veterans Administration. To better understand the true burden of veteran and active-military deaths by suicide, improved data collection is needed along with improved understanding of the life circumstances that preceded these deaths and the contributing factors that may have resulted in these disproportionately high suicide rates.

Through this award, project partners will aim to investigate the difference in circumstances which precede military-involved suicides, specifically as related to variances in access to benefits. New knowledge will be gained through qualitative analysis to inform decision makers on risk and protective factors, and ultimately to improve transitions of care and vital record reporting of military suicides.

Project Updates:

  • Began process to obtain critical project data from other sources, beginning data-sharing agreement process with U.S. Department of Defense and obtaining death data on all veteran suicides in Wisconsin from 2004-2018 from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services
  • Obtained IRB approval for project’s research protocol
  • Initiated psychological autopsy interview process, training Veteran peer interviewers in human subject research training and conducting outreach to veteran-serving organizations to secure participation of interviewees
  • Initiated a Crisis Intercept Mapping process in Sauk County in partnership with SAMHSA, the Sauk County Veteran Service Office, and area law enforcement, county health services, non-profit agencies, private health systems, and others

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