September is National Suicide Prevention Month, which makes it an important time to move the conversation about suicide forward. While suicide is a national problem, it is one that also affects smaller communities, including the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) community.
These brave men and women have suffered losses not only on the battlefield, but from suicide in recent years. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, each day there are around 20 veterans who commit suicide. What’s more, they report that veterans’ suicides account for 18% of the suicide deaths in the country, while they only make up 8.5% of the adult population.
“There’s clearly a serious issue with suicides among active duty military service members, veterans and their families, and it’s one that we are passionate about addressing,” explains Nicole Motsek, executive director of the EOD Warrior Foundation. “Only when people are aware of what is going on can they begin to affect change.”
Suicide is a major concern with veterans and active duty military members. It’s especially shocking when viewing the suicide rates of active duty Army members. According to a research report in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings journal, the Army suicide rate increased 80% from 2004 to 2008. While the Army may have the most shocking suicide statistics, but no branch of the military is immune to the crisis. Among EOD technicians, suicide is considered to be at a crisis level. It’s an issue that the EOD Warrior Foundation is tackling and hoping to help change.
Suicide among EOD technicians is an issue that organizations such as the EOD Warrior Foundation are trying to not only raise awareness about, but are trying to help prevent. They are currently working with Dr. Kelly Posner Gerstenhaber, of Columbia University. Dr. Gerstenhaber is the director of The Columbia Lighthouse Project, and has dedicated her life to saving others from suicide, as well as removing the stigma around the issue. She created the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS) and has shown that this is a critical tool in preventing suicide. We must identify to find those suffering in silence.
Those who suspect someone they know may be considering suicide should seek immediate professional assistance. The C-SSRS supports suicide risk assessment through a series of simple, plain-language questions that anyone can ask. The answers help users identify whether someone is at risk for suicide, assess the severity and immediacy of that risk, and gauge the level of support that the person needs.
Users of the C-SSRS tool ask people:
• Whether and when they have thought about suicide (ideation)
• What actions they have taken — and when — to prepare for suicide
• Whether and when they attempted suicide or began a suicide attempt that was either interrupted by another person or stopped of their own volition
“The suicide rate for our veterans and active duty is around 50% higher than for their civilian counterparts, showing what a serious issue we have on our hands,” says Dr. Gerstenhaber. “This group of people have a tremendous amount of stress and they need to know it’s not a sign of weakness to seek help. We have programs in place that have been successful at helping to reduce the suicide rates, and we want to expand those to help others around the nation.”
These are questions everyone must ask. In order to continue working to eradicate suicide, we all must go beyond the medical model, and this is what the Dr. Gerstenhaber and the EOD Warrior Foundation are working together to do in the EOD community.
The EOD Warrior Foundation is an organization that helps the families of the 7,000 people in our military who are Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians, and perform bomb disposal duties. Engaging in the most dangerous job in the military, EOD technicians often sustain serious injuries, lose limbs, or are killed in action. The EOD Warrior Foundation helps this elite group by providing financial relief, therapeutic healing retreats, a scholarship program, care of the EOD Memorial Wall located at Eglin AFB, Fla. and more. Their work is supported by private donations and the generosity of those who support the organization. To learn more about the EOD Warrior Foundation, or see their fundraising events calendar, visit their site at: eodwarriorfoundation.org.
About EOD Warrior Foundation
The EOD Warrior Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help EOD warriors and their family members with a priority on wounded EOD warriors and the families of fallen EOD warriors. Specific programs include financial relief, college scholarships, hope and wellness programs that include therapeutic healing retreats, and care for the EOD Memorial Wall located at Eglin AFB, Fla. To learn more about the EOD Warrior Foundation, or see their events calendar, visit their site at: eodwarriorfoundation.org.