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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Suicide among Virginia Active Duty and Veterans

On behalf of Dr. Leah Bush, Chief Medical Examiner for the Commonwealth of Virginia, we are pleased to present a new report from the Virginia Violent Death Reporting System called Military-Related Suicide in Virginia: 2003-2010. This report examines suicide among active duty military members and military veterans in Virginia. Highlights of this report include:

  • From 2003-2010 there were 1,647 suicide decedents in Virginia who were active duty military members or military veterans. 
  • Estimates of suicide rates suggest that male active duty military members and veterans ages 18-29 have a 2.8 times increase in suicide risk as compared to similarly aged civilian males.
  • Active duty military members less often gave clear warning signs to friends and family that they were at risk for suicide than did civilians. 
  • Military members had a number of protective factors in place including education, marriage, and employment, but were still at increased risk for suicide.

This report is available at:

From Marc Leslie

National Survivors of Suicide Day

November 17, 2013

Teleconference dedicated to those who have lost a loved one to suicide.  This annual event may also be beneficial to anyone who comes in contact with a suicide. For more details of what the Teleconference is about, you can find additional info at . The outline of the day is as follows:

12:30 - 1:00 pm Registration

1:00 - 2:30 pm Viewing of Teleconference

2:30 - 3:00 pm Discussion

This is the fifth year that the Staunton Survivors of Suicide Loss Support Group is hosting this event. Please come show your support. Refreshments will be served so I ask that you RSVP no later than Nov. 10 Thanks much and I look forward to seeing you all at the Teleconference!!

Sean McGowan

Recognizing and Responding to Students in Distress

We are pleased to announce the release of Recognizing and Responding to Students in Distress: A Faculty Handbook. This is a free resource to all Virginia colleges and universities and we invite you to consider how you might use this on your own campus.

The handbook was created in two formats. The above link takes you to an E-Book version. You may want to send this out to faculty or post it on a faculty resource website. We suggest that you post it alongside a list of your own campus and community mental health services.

A limited number of hard copies are available, at no cost, to interested campuses. We will distribute them on the basis of the number of requests we get, so if you are interested, it would be best to contact me soon. The hard copy has a pocket in the inside cover to hold a list of your campus and community resources.

From Jane Wiggins, Ph.D.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

NSPL Partners with the NFL

Today, in partnership with the National Football League (NFL), Link2Health Solutions (L2H) is launching the NFL Life Line, a 24/7 helpline for members of the “NFL family” to assist them when they are in emotional distress. The NFL Life Line is the newest component of the NFL Total Wellness initiative, which builds upon current NFL programs and services that help members of the NFL family deal with pressing matters such as physical and mental health, family safety, lifestyle and post-career life. Service provision for the new NFL Life Line is targeted towards current and former players, NFL staff, and family members and will be provided by two Lifeline crisis centers: LifeNet in NYC and Centerstone in Nashville, TN. More information about the service can be found at

How did the NFL Life Line come about?

Soon after the May 2012 suicide death of Junior Seau, a popular and highly talented retired player who spent the majority of his career with the San Diego Chargers, the NFL reached out to consult with a group of experts in suicide prevention. They spoke with key representatives from the National Action Alliance, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Institute of Mental Health, SAMHSA, the Jed Foundation, and our organization, among others. We learned a lot from the NFL about ways in which their community could receive more support. While our discussion looked at the health and mental health needs of the entire league and player community, a particular focus on the needs of retired players was evident.

While the media has given much attention to concussion-related issues in the lives of former players and family members, other transition and adjustment stressors commonly loom large in their lives. Issues such as changes in their financial status, changes in their social supports (loss of the “locker room culture” and how significant others regard them), changes in their sense of identity (“I am a football player”), and a need for developing new skills to adapt to careers beyond playing football routinely challenge many players in the months and years after leaving the game.

Today, we are launching the service with two Lifeline crisis centers (Centerstone and LifeNet) responding to calls. Within the next 3 months, the NFL Life Line service will incorporate a 24/7 online chat service as well as a self-check quiz, consistent with the instrument adapted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for the Veterans Crisis Line service on the site. The launch of this service today is a tremendous moment for further recognizing the central suicide prevention role of crisis centers in America.

Above all, this program could potentially have a major impact on national public health efforts to prevent suicide. The NFL turned to our suicide prevention community for help preventing suicide and building a more robust support network for their players, former players, league staff and family members towards “total wellness.” However, it is clear to all of us that the problem of suicide, limited help-seeking among men, and the need to establish more workplace models for mental wellness are all issues that are culturally and geographically boundless. The VA led the way to helping the world see the need that “tough guys need help, too,” and now the NFL will have an opportunity to help us drive this message deeper and wider into our culture.

(From John Draper, Director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Touching article in The Virginian Pilot

I am reminded of the work still to be done to keep people safe from suicide.

to view the article and video click here:
By Kate Wiltrout

The Virginian-Pilot

© April 20, 2012

Jonathan Bartlett, an Iraq war veteran and double amputee who was featured in numerous Virginian-Pilot stories as he recovered from his injuries, died Tuesday at his home in Chesapeake. He was 27.

Family members said he killed himself.

On Sept. 25, 2004, Bartlett was a 19-year-old Army infantryman at the wheel of a Humvee outside Fallujah when it hit a homemade bomb. He lost one leg in the blast; the other was amputated soon after.

He spent 13 months recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, where he learned to walk on prosthetic legs and amused nurses, therapists and visitors with his salty language and black humor. He liked to wear T-shirts referencing the stumps of his legs. One read: "I was golfing. I found the alligator." Another admonished: "Tell your children not to stare, or the bogeyman will take their legs, too."

A graduate of Maury High School, Bartlett returned to Norfolk in 2005 and enrolled at Old Dominion. He eventually moved into a wheelchair-accessible home in Deep Creek purchased with the aid of a veterans organization.

In 2007, Bartlett was one of 10 servicemembers featured in an HBO documentary called "Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq."

He graduated in 2011 and got a job with the federal government, working in human resources at Norfolk Naval Station.

Bartlett was outspoken and opinionated, with a flair for the dramatic; he'd regularly post manifestos about politics, religion and government on Facebook, and link to essays and articles that invariably made him mad.

His mother, Esther Bartlett of Norfolk, said she saw him a few times in the past week and Jon seemed his usual cocky self.

"We knew he had demons," she said. "He brought probably more than a few of them back from Iraq with him. We thought he had at least made some kind of peace with them."

A friend, Jumaria Copeland, said Bartlett helped her get through tough times, whether she was struggling emotionally or financially.

"I remember being so flat broke, and he would hand me a $20. He'd say, 'I know it's not much, but it will put gas in your tank.' "

He pushed her not to give up her dream of becoming a criminal psychologist, she said, prodding her to stop thinking about it and start doing something to achieve her goal.

She remembers him as wickedly funny and verbally talented, but said she most values the inspiration he provided to rise above minor annoyances and focus on what was most important.

"Here he is, he lost his legs, he barely survived all of this, and through everything he still had a smile on his face, and he was still willing to help people," Copeland said.

Bartlett insisted he was not a hero. It made him uncomfortable when people thanked him for his "sacrifice."

"You know what sacrifice is?" he said in a Virginian-Pilot video in 2008. "Throwing yourself on top of a grenade to save your buddies, grabbing a kid out of the street at the expense of your life or limb - that's a sacrifice, because you didn't have to do it, but you did it anyway. I got hit by a bomb. I'm a casualty."

Perhaps the thing Bartlett missed most about losing his legs was being able to run. He ran track at Maury, he ran in Army training, he ran as a means of coping with life.

"If you run fast enough, and you don't look at your legs, you can almost fly," he said. "It's very peaceful."

Bartlett's funeral will be at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday at the Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery in Suffolk. In lieu of flowers, his family asks that donations be made in Jon's memory to the Wounded Warrior Project.

Kate Wiltrout, 757-446-2629,

Monday, April 9, 2012

Survivor Voices

Survivor Voices:  A Public Speaking Training for Virginia Survivors of Suicide

The Virginia Department of Health will be offering a series of two day trainings for survivors of suicide loss who are interested in learning how to tell their story safely to friends, various audiences, and the media. Suicide survivors (those who have lost a loved one to suicide) play an important role in increasing awareness about suicide. By speaking about their personal loss and telling the story about their loved one’s life and death, survivors can promote healing and understanding, which in turn supports and encourages suicide prevention efforts. Suicide is a very complex issue and a great deal of research has been done about how to talk about suicide in a safe manner and in a way that will not increase the risk for those who may be vulnerable. This two-day training assists speakers in honing a message that tells their story in a safe and effective manner.

Survivors who complete the training are certainly not required to tell their story publicly after the training, but most do go on to speak at local suicide prevention conferences and local venues such as rotary, their church, legislative committees, etc. The training was developed by NAMI NH and is part of their Connect Suicide Prevention Project, which is listed on the Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s Best Practice Registry.

It is suggested that survivors be at least two years from their loss before attending; however, some survivors are ready earlier and should feel free to talk with us if you would like to attend.

The training is conducted over the course of two days and you will be asked to commit to both training days. The first day of the training will focus on the basics of public speaking, issues to be aware of around speaking about suicide, safe messaging, honing your message for particular audiences/media, and composing your personal story. The second day of the training will give you an opportunity to share your presentation, evaluate yourself, get feedback from the group, discuss how to be responsive to your audience, and review possible responses to difficult questions. There will be a homework assignment for the night of day one.

The training is free of charge to participants and is made possible through funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Each training is limited to 8 participants. Information on training dates, location and registration can be found below:

May 21-22, 2012 – Chesterfield, Virginia
Featherstone Professional Center
Suite 108
1807 Huguenot Road
Midlothian, VA 23113


June 20-21, 2012 – Abingdon, Virginia
Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center
One Partnership Circle
Abingdon, Virginia 24212


July 18-19, 2012 - Roanoke, Virginia
Blue Ridge Behavioral Health
3517 Brandon Ave
Roanoke, VA 24018

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Suicide and Suicide Prevention on College Campuses in Virginia

It is difficult to determine how many college students die each year by suicide. “Student” status can be hard to define and is not typically recorded by a coroner or medical examiner following a death.

The BAD NEWS: We do know that suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students and that more teenagers and young adults die by suicide than from all medical illnesses combined. It is estimated that we lose about 1,350 college students to suicide each year; roughly 3 young people per day.

The GOOD NEWS: Statistics also tell us that 18-24 year olds who are in college are at HALF the risk of suicide compared to their non-student counterparts. That is, being part of a campus community is believed to have a protective effect. While we don’t have the full explanation for these findings, experts suggest that key factors may be reduced access to firearms, the greater availability of mental health care and richer connections to a supportive network. The continued study of suicide risk within campus communities may well teach us some strategies for preventing suicide among 18-24 year olds in non-campus settings.

We also know that preventing suicide may also help to prevent violence of other kinds. Clearly, preventing suicide, suicidal thinking and suicidal behavior are a priority to those who work to create safe campus communities.

Historically, the work of suicide prevention has been accomplished through a mental health model, in which those at risk for suicide receive intervention and follow-up services in a mental health care setting. While effective triage and crisis management will always be essential elements of a comprehensive plan, a public health model protects limited crisis management resources by expanding “upstream” prevention efforts.

The Campus Suicide Prevention Center of Virginia works to reduce risk for suicide in Virginia’s college and university communities by helping campus leaders to:
· Promote mental health and emotional resilience for all students;
· Enhance strategies for early identification of mental health concerns;
· Encourage help-seeking among students;
· Provide options for those in need of support services; and
· Respond effectively to individuals who may be at risk for suicide.

As the rest of the country moves to a broader, more proactive and comprehensive public health model for reducing suicide risk, college and university campus communities will too. One of our primary goals is to further that transition in higher education settings across Virginia.

For more information, go to or contact Dr. Jane Wiggins at

Jane Wiggins, Ph.D. has been a school psychologist for the past 30 years. Her expertise is in working with institutions that serve youth, particularly K-12 and higher education settings. She is currently the director of the Campus Suicide Prevention Center of Virginia; a partnership between the Virginia Department of Health and the Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services at James Madison University. In that role, Jane provides resources, training, consultation in suicide prevention to colleges and universities across the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Most mental health clinicians have had little or no formal training in assessing suicide risk, yet they are often called upon to do so. Recognizing and Responding to Suicide Risk: Essential Skills for Clinicians (RRSR) has been developed by the American Association of Suicidology specifically to fill this training gap. RRSR is an advanced, interactive training based on established core competencies that mental health professionals need in order to effectively assess and manage suicide risk in their patients. The program has several components, including a web-based assessment; two on-line, self-paced modules; a two-day face-to-face workshop; and post-workshop mentorship through on-line learning activities.

RRSR is appropriate for any mental health clinician working with patients on an ongoing basis. Participants can include licensed private counselors, licensed clinical social workers, clinical psychologists, psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses, addiction counselors, licensed marriage and family therapists and pastoral counselors.

Additional information about RRSR is available at
The Virginia Department of Health will host 5 RRSR trainings in 2012. This training is for all mental health clinicians, regardless of your place of work. Some of you may be familiar with another suicide prevention training offered, ASIST. Please refer to the attached document for an explanation as to who should attend an ASIST training and who should attend an RRSR training.

Through a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) this training will be offered at no cost to 50 participants; the training is typically valued at $250 a participant. All training materials will be provided.

The training will be from 8:30-4:45 both days. One hour will be given for lunch; meals will be "on your own".

Because of the demand for seats, please register only if you are able to attend the full two days, and are not 'on-call' for other duties during that time.

2012 Training Dates, Locations, and Registration:

April 3-4, 2012
Richmond, VA

May 16-17, 2012
Middletown, VA (Winchester area)

June 19-20, 2012
Fredericksburg, VA

July 24-25, 2012
Roanoke, VA

October 10-11, 2012
Richmond, VA

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at Please feel free to share this training announcement with your colleagues.

We look forward to seeing you at one of the trainings!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Veterans Crisis Line introduces Text Messaging

WASHINGTON, Feb 15, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- The Department of Veterans Affairs is expanding its efforts to prevent suicide through several new initiatives that increase the availability of services for Veterans, Servicemembers and their families.

The new initiatives include a new, free, confidential text-messaging service in the existing Veterans Crisis Line, introduction of toll-free access from Europe, and collaboration with Vets Prevail and Vets4Warriors, two groups providing crisis help to Veterans, Servicemembers and their families.

"Offering text messaging services will help VA reach more Veterans and their friends and families," said Dr. Janet Kemp, VA's national mental health director for suicide prevention. "We are working to meet their needs by communicating through multiple channels -- over the phone, through online chat, and now via text, which provides quick, easy access to support. VA wants all Veterans to know that confidential support is only a text message away."
Since its founding July 2007, VA's Veterans Crisis Line and the later Chat Service have received 500,000 calls and engaged in 31,000 chats resulting in over 18,000 rescues of Veterans in immediate crisis.

Now, in addition to the Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255 and Press 1) and online chat ( ), Veterans and Servicemembers in crisis--and their friends and families--may text free of charge to 83-8255 to receive confidential, personal and immediate support. The text service is available, like the Veterans Crisis Line and online chat, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and connects a user with a specially trained VA professional -- many who are Veterans themselves.

As a part of the effort to extend VA's reach, Veterans and members of the military community in Europe may now receive free, confidential support from the European Military Crisis Line, a new initiative recently launched by VA. Callers in Europe may dial 0800-1273-8255 or DSN 118 to receive confidential support from responders at the Veterans Crisis Line in the U.S.
VA's Veterans Crisis Line continues to add external resources to provide Veterans with additional support. Two of these organizations include Vets Prevail ( ) and Vets4Warriors ( ).

In December, Vets Prevail launched a chat service that connects Veterans to caring responders who provide information on a wide variety of resources. If the Veteran is in crisis or needs mental health support, the conversation is then seamlessly transferred to a VA Veterans Crisis Line responder.

Vets4Warriors has helped thousands of their peers connect with confidential assistance through a free hotline (1-855-838-8255/1-855-VET-TALK) and online chat ( ). If a Veteran is in need of professional crisis or mental health support, Vets4Warriors' responders will transfer the Veteran to a responder at the Veterans Crisis Line.

For more information about VA's suicide prevention program, visit:

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Walk for Hope and Out of the Darkness in Harrisonburg

The Walk For Hope is scheduled for Saturday March 31st in downtown Harrisonburg. This is a risk reduction event targeted towards college students.

On Sunday April 22nd Chi Sigma Iota will host its second annual AFPS Out of the Darkness Campus Walk. This walk will be held on the James Madison University Campus. Registration will be held in Highlands Room of the Festival Conference and Student Center starting at noon. We are currently spreading the word, starting our fundraising campaign, and looking for volunteers. If anyone is interested in registering they can go to our walk website:

Monday, February 6, 2012

Save the Date

Coalition conference call is scheduled for March 12th at 2pm. Please contact Christy Letsom at for more information.

We will share state and regional updates and discuss needs of the coalitions and future projects. I look forward to talking with you all.

Friday, January 6, 2012

ASIST Trainers Conference Call

I’m happy to announce that we will be having a Virginia ASIST Trainers Conference call January 18th from 3pm until 4pm! Conference calls are a great way for us to extend the networking and sharing that takes place at the Annual Regional ASIST trainers conference throughout the year. We are hoping to be able to have these calls once a quarter.
The call on January 18th will focus on the following items:

1. Updates from the State (VDH)

2. Regional Updates (A chance to tell other ASIST trainers what’s been going on in your area)

3. Process for wrapping up day two

4. Value of holding training team meetings

5. Follow-up from October Regional Trainers Conference (“The Clouds”)

6. Wrap up and next call scheduled

Call details
January 18th, 2012 (Wednesday)


Call in number: 866-842-5779


If you plan to join us for the conference call (we hope you do!), please just send an email back letting me know. That way we’ll have an idea of who all will be on the call.