Each year across the nation, September serves as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The Louisiana Department of Veterans Affair’s Third Annual Suicide Prevention Summit will feature speakers that will address safe firearm storage, safety planning as an effective form of intervention for suicide prevention and preventing suicide by firearms or other lethal means.
Included in the lineup is Gala True, PhD, Associate Professor in the Section on Community and Population Medicine at Louisiana State University School of Medicine and Core Investigator with the South Central Mental Illness Research and Education Center (MIRECC) at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System (SLVCHS). With a background in folklore and anthropology, Dr. True’s research focuses on improving access to care and the health of individuals and communities through patient-centered and community-engaged research approaches. She recently completed a 3-year study using participatory action research methods (i.e. photovoice) to collaborate with Veterans, military families, and other key stakeholders on identifying barriers to post-deployment care and proposing solutions for improving community reintegration after separation from military service. Dr. True is Co-PI (with Dr. Joseph Constans as Co-PI and Dr. Amanda Raines as Co-I) on a recent award from the Department of Veterans Affairs that will engage key community stakeholders in identifying common goals and acceptable interventions to promote gun safety and reduce suicide by firearm among Veterans.
Dr. True is a Primary Investigator for VISION (Veteran-Informed Safety Intervention & Outreach Network), a team of mental health professionals and veterans whose focus is centered around fostering change in suicide by firearm in southeast Louisiana, especially among veterans. One of the most important parts of VISION is bringing people together to talk about suicide interventions that may or may not work, then dive deep into why or why not.
Despite increased attention in recent years, suicide rates are increasing. It’s the 10th leading cause of death in the general population. Current data shows that 14 people out of 100,000 people die by suicide. This problem is even greater among Veterans, where 27.7 per 100,000 people die by suicide. In Louisiana, this rate is even higher, with 32.5 per 100,000 dying by suicide. There are many different interventions and programs to combat suicide, but they don’t seem to be helping.