WASHINGTON – Leaders from Clarksville and Middle Tennessee gathered in the nation’s capital last week to continue working on a public health strategy to prevent suicide among soldiers, veterans and their families.
The Mayors Challenge Policy Academy was convened by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It included the team from Clarksville and teams from six other communities: Mecklenburg County (Charlotte), N.C.; Tulsa and Oklahoma City; Kansas City; Reno; and Suffolk County, N.Y.
The goal of the Mayor’s Challenge is eliminating suicide by promoting a comprehensive public health approach that empowers communities to take action.
Earlier, the Clarksville group adopted the working title of “Team SLIC (Saving Lives In Clarksville).” Its vision: “To be a community with the commitment and capacity to end suicide among service members, veterans and their families.”
At the academy, Team SLIC refined several priority topics it had formulated during its advance work. They are:
-- Focus on distribution of suicide prevention messaging, and provide community caregiver training.
-- Establish a Suicide Fatality Review Board to gather and analyze data.
-- Pursue a sustaining structure for the team and funding for a full-time Community Suicide Prevention Director.
Suicide is a major public health concern that overall is the 10th leading cause of death in America. It is estimated 45,000 Americans, including 6,000 veterans, die by suicide each year. In 2017, the most recent year with complete data, Tennessee reported 1,163 suicides, with 42 occuring in Clarksville-Montgomery County.
“Clarksville got involved in the Mayor’s Challenge in 2018, and we’ve now completed four training sessions, with this policy academy being the most extensive,” said Bill Harpel, City of Clarksville Military Liaison, and chairman of the Clarksville team. “This work provides us a partnership with the VA and SAMHSA and a roadmap for how our community can prevent suicide, esoecially among our service members and veterans.”
At the policy academy, representatives from the sites developed strategic action plans to implement in their communities. The collaborative teams included community, municipal and military stakeholders, among others. VA and SAMHSA provided technical assistance to support local efforts, document outcomes and share strategies with other municipalities.
The Clarksville team met again April 2 in Clarksville to review the results of the academy and to continue steps to implement its plan. The group will meet locally with VA and SAMHSA advisors again in May.
IF YOU NEED HELP
Veterans who are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, and those who know a veteran in crisis, can contact the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential support 24 hours a day. Call 800-273-8255 and press 1, send a text message to 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.
Or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a free, 24-hour hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Or text TN to 741741 to connect to the Crisis Text Line and a trained counselor.
To learn more about the efforts of VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, visit https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention. For information on SAMHSA’s suicide prevention efforts, visit https://www.samhsa.gov/suicide-prevention/samhsas-efforts.
To learn more about the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, visit www.tspn.org.
Team SLIC (Saving Lives in Clarksville) works on suicide prevention strategy at the Mayor’s Challenge Policy Academy in the nation’s capital last week.