NIMH council meeting highlights joint NIMH and Army multi-pronged approach to suicide prevention efforts

The Army STARRS project includes a cohort of 57,000 new soldiers and an additional 31,000 Army soldiers, as well as smaller cohorts of nearly 10,000 service members pre-and post-deployment.

As NIMH Director Tom Insel was testifying on Capitol Hill, NIMH Deputy Director Philip Wang led the National Advisory Mental Health Council and discussed some of the other challenges facing the institute as well as some of its recent advances. As the federal government is operating under a continuing resolution until the end of March, if Congress does not reach agreement on the FY2013 funding by March 27, the institute expects a cut of 6.4 percent to its $1.489 billion budget, which would keep success rates at approximately 20 percent. Wang also mentioned that the passage of the Affordable Care Act and mental health parity legislation has led to a discussion recently at the Institute of Medicine (IOM) about the possible need for an IOM committee to review standards for efficacy and safety of psychotherapy and other behavioral interventions as more individuals are seeking coverage for behavioral treatments for a broad spectrum of mental disorders.

NIMH staff James Churchill and Michael Schoenbaum presented an update on the progress of the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS): A Partnership Between NIMH and the U.S. Army. Army STARRS is a joint effort to identify risk and protective factors to improve the Army's ability to address a marked increase in the suicide rate among its service members. As the project has progressed, the study includes a cohort of 57,000 new soldiers and an additional 31,000 Army soldiers, as well as smaller cohorts of nearly 10,000 service members pre-and post-deployment. A soldier health outcome study is also underway to examine those service members who attempt or complete a suicide attempt, including interviews with supervisors and family members. Additionally, researchers have created a database of information on 1.6 million soldiers from 39 different bases that is being analyzed to identify potential high risk groups earlier and to help develop targeted suicide prevention strategies for those at high risk for suicide.

For more information on this issue contact Karen Studwell.