Heidi Linn, a psychiatric nurse at the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System, says she’s on the “front lines” of caring for Veterans with suicidal thoughts. One resource she relies on is a new VA educational series called “From Science to Practice.”
Offered through VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, the series translates published research into informative tips that VA suicide prevention coordinators and providers can use to support their patients. The focus is on relaying suicide risk factors and preventive measures in a concise, easy-to-absorb way.
Linn is among many VA clinicians who have accessed the new series, which is available on VA Pulse, an online information portal for VA employees, and on the website of the Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. She says the series “allows front-line workers and those vested in preventing suicide among Veterans to access the latest literature updates. It also connects me, as a health care provider, to services within VA that will ultimately benefit our Veterans.”
Dr. Gloria Workman of VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention leads the educational series. “We’re pulling out the major findings from scientifically grounded articles and making sense of them as a whole,” she says. “What do these documents tell us in terms of how the clinician can work with the patient? How can the clinicians put the findings into action in their clinical work? One of the agency’s goals when it comes to suicide prevention is putting research into action.”
Thus far, Workman and her staff have posted 14 documents, with a goal of completing 42 by next year. Those posted range in topic from the suicide risks associated with military sexual trauma to loneliness, opioid use, and unemployment. Each document includes four major sections—the issue at hand, key findings, implications, and ways everyone can help, with links to VA and other government resources. The documents are limited to one page, front and back, to keep them as “short and sweet” as possible, says Workman.
“We can’t take our foot off the gas pedal in our efforts to prevent Veteran suicide.”
Workman and her colleagues are also developing a companion series called “Together We Can,” which will provide practical information for Veterans, family members, and caregivers to support Veterans at risk of suicide. The topics selected will be similar to those covered in “From Science to Practice.”
“The `Together We Can’ series will be written in easy-to-understand language and will provide Veterans, family members, and caregivers links to resources they can use to help Veterans,” Workman says. “The links and the resources in the `From Science to Practice’ series are for clinician use. As such, the content is different, and the resources listed may vary.”
Workman says both series fit into a much larger array of VA products and services designed to address Veteran suicide. These, in turn, are part of the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide.
The strategy, says Workman, “includes dozens of objectives to promote wellness, effective treatment, and recovery and provides a framework for identifying priorities, organizing efforts, and contributing to a national focus on Veteran suicide prevention. We can’t take our foot off the gas pedal in our efforts to prevent Veteran suicide.”
To read a longer version of this article, visit the VA Research website.
Photo at top: VA nurses, social workers, and other clinicians can turn to a new VA educational series to learn about the latest research on helping patients struggling with suicidal thoughts. (©iStock/monkeybusinessimages)