The Nevada National Guard and Nevada Department of Veteran Services (NDVS) hosted their first Suicide Prevention Forum on World Suicide Prevention Day at the Santa Fe Station Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nevada Governor, Steve Sisolak, signed a proclamation stating September 10, 2022, as National Guard Suicide Prevention Day in Nevada.
The forum consisted of a keynote speech from Dr. Todd Burnett, senior consultant for the Office of Suicide Prevention for the Veterans Affairs Office, and break-out sessions presented by current Guardsmen, veterans, & civilians involved in the military community who all are experts in their field.
Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the United States with Guardsmen surpassing all other military components with 35.3 suicides per 100,000 Soldiers & Airmen. 2nd lt. Jezalea Segura, R3SP coordinator state of Nevada, thinks the forum is another way to engage everyone in having an impactful experience versus yearly briefs.
“Events don’t happen enough in the Guard where all units can come in one area and talk,” Segura said. “This event drew everybody together for a cause that is about your health and well-being. It’s a fun event where people from other units can come together and share their experiences and even share their contacts for support.”
The forum didn’t just acutely look at suicide from a mental illness point of view, it deep-dived into this topic by looking at the stressors that impact a member’s readiness. Sara Hogue is the Suicide Prevention Program Manager for the NDVS. Hogue says suicide is a public health issue and it's important to talk about it from all angles.
“We're looking at all the stressors that impact a soldier, an airman, a family member,” Hogue said. “We're looking at everybody and saying all of these different topics: caregiving, finances, connectiveness, they all impact somebody's readiness. And that's why it's so important today because suicide is everybody's business. It is a public health issue.”
The eight classes that were presented that spoke about different topics regarding health and wellness to prevent suicide were: Incorporating the CDC 7 Suicide Strategies, Family and Caregiver Resilience, Operation Mission Ready (Work & Life Balance), Connectiveness Matters, Financial Health, What Are Healthy Behaviors and Why They Should Matter, Immortal Guardian, Relationship and Spiritual Resilience.
The NDVS hopes to bring this forum to life yearly and bring it to northern Nevada. Hogue wants everyone who attended to apply the lessons they learned during the forum to their daily lives so these conversations can spread and affect other lives.
“What you're experiencing today, you can share with other soldiers, airmen, and families in your community by taking the lessons and the experience you're having today and living it,” Hogue said. “So not just taking knowledge in and saying, ‘I went to an event today and I learned a bunch of stuff,’ but actually applying it to your life. I think that’s the best way to share this information.