News // June 02, 2014

Suicide Prevention Top Priority for Military and Veteran Communities

On the morning of May 30, 2014, 90 people gathered at the Jacobs Center Art Gallery for the San Diego County Suicide Prevention Council (SPC) 3rd Annual Faith Breakfast.  This year’s meeting focused on the evolving needs and challenges of the military population on every level, including mental and spiritual well-being. 

Suicide is a major concern in the San Diego veterans’ community.  According to the San Diego Veterans Affairs 2013 Suicide Data, there were 42 suicide completions and 159 suicide attempts among veterans.  Among suicide attempts, the common diagnosis was major depression (54%), followed by Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (36%), substance use disorder (33%), bipolar disorder (12%), and anxiety disorders other than Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (11%).  The majority of suicides were among older veterans.

During the welcoming remarks, Dr. Piedad Garcia, Assistant Deputy Director at the County of San Diego’s Health and Human Services Agency-Behavioral Health Services Division, emphasized how County services are working with faith communities as a cornerstone of support for military and veteran communities.

“Mental Health Systems Courage to Call is committed to providing services to address the needs of the military population,” said Garcia. “The Faith-Based Initiative and Veteran Services will continue to expand and the County is dedicated to the success of these services.”

Rev. Susan Gregg-Shroeder, founder of Mental Health Ministries, delivered an inspirational keynote address.  She shared her personal journey with depression and how she was determined to make a difference by educating faith leaders about mental illness.  And a diverse panel consisting of Dr. Nancy Dietsch, CPE Supervisor, VA San Diego Healthcare System; Paul Armstrong, MCCES Chaplain, U.S. Navy; Giovanny Penate, Marine Corps Veteran, Veteran Village of San Diego; and Liz Snell, Founder of Military Spouses of Strength, talked about how their faith community helped them, what resources they also used outside the church, and ideas and inspiration for a faith community to create their own support system and programs.  Following the panel, attendees had a rich discussion on takeaways from the event and action steps to better serve military community members.

The event was sponsored by the San Diego County Suicide Prevention Council’s Faith Outreach Subcommittee, formed to provide resources and education to San Diego County Faith Organizations interested in suicide prevention and information about mental health illness.  This group meets on the 3rd Wednesday of each month from 10:00 am - 12:00 pm.  To learn more about the Faith Outreach Subcommittee, email Elizabeth Vaughan.