Middle-Age Men and Veterans are Key Focus Populations
Two specific subgroups, middle-age men and veterans, have been identified as key focus populations for Destination Zero. However, the overarching goal of our efforts is a reduction of suicide among ALL in Fond du Lac County. The systems changes we aim to achieve, and the interventions to be implemented, will benefit everyone who is served by the organizations involved. Continue reading for information about why these focus populations were identified and the efforts to be undertaken to reach them.
According to a report from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, men ages 35-64 accounts for 19% of the population nationwide, but 40% of the suicides. This holds true in Fond du Lac County as well, where approximately 20% of the population is men ages 35-64, but from 2007-2016 nearly half (47%) of the suicides which occurred were men in this age range.
Men are less likely to receive behavioral health treatment than women, so often are not reached by suicide prevention efforts which are focused on medical or behavioral health settings alone. By broadening the scope beyond clinical settings, the goal is to find middle-aged men “where they are”, and effectively navigate them to appropriate resources. This means partnering with workplaces, faith communities, and civic organizations to ensure those who are frequently coming into contact with men who may be struggling know how to respond and encourage them to seek help.
After accounting for differences in age, the suicide rate for veterans in Wisconsin is significantly higher than the national suicide rate. In Fond du Lac County, veterans comprise approximately 8% of the population, but 33% of suicides in 2017 were veterans. Veterans die by suicide at a higher rate than their non-veteran peers. Certain suicide risk factors and protective factors pertain equally to those who have served in the military and those who have not. However, veterans may have unique characteristics and experiences related to their military service that can increase or decrease their risk for suicide.
By partnering with organizations which serve local veterans, we will work to create an environment in which there is a better understanding of the unique needs and strengths of this population, to reverse the trend of increased suicide risk. As part of the Destination Zero initiative, a “Warrior Summit” was held on October 18th, 2019 which focused on promoting a community response to the mental health needs of veterans and their families. The summit educated more than 120 clinical professionals, community organization and social service agency representatives, and members of the general public about the needs of veterans and their families, and the programs available to support them.
S.A.V.E is an online suicide prevention training course through PsychArmor and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. The course consists of a 24-minute video that provides viewers with information about the problem of suicide in the United States, how to identify a Veteran who may be at risk for suicide, and know what to do if they identify a Veteran at risk. Free registration to the PsychArmor Institute is required, and provides access to this and many other free veteran-focused courses.