Over 100 professionals from across Northern Virginia came together for a Regional Military Culture and Suicide Prevention Summit on June 17 at the Fairfax County Government Center. The goals of the summit, sponsored by Virginia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services (DBHDS), were to increase military cultural competency, including understanding service members’ and veterans’ unique behaviors, values and characteristics; bolster regional partnerships between federal, state and local partners; and highlight best practices to prevent suicide among military service members, veterans, and their families. Virginia has the eighth largest veteran population and the fourth largest active duty population in the United States, home to roughly 720,000 veterans and 89,000 active duty members of the military.
Sessions included an introduction to military culture and a discussion on lethal means safety, which is limiting access to highly lethal means of suicide, such as firearms and certain prescription medications, for service members and veterans who are in crisis. The summit also featured an overview of the CSB’s new Lock & Talk Northern Virginia program. The event wrapped up with a regional resource panel and a question and answer session which was moderated by Brandi Jancaitis, Military and Veterans Affairs Manager, Virginia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services, and included panelists:
- Travis Rahill, SFC, US Army Retired, Outreach Program Manager, Melwood Veterans Services
- Kaye Larson, Military OneSource
- Caleb Johnson, Northern Regional Director, Virginia Veteran and Family Support DVS, and
- Dusty Baxley, Executive Director, Boulder Crest Retreat for Military and Veteran Wellness.
One of the objectives throughout the conference was to identify resources for service members, veterans and their families, caregivers and providers. An attendee stated, “The summit has been a success in opening my eyes to the resources available through Northern Virginia for military service members, veterans, and their families. I’ve made some great contacts and have a better understanding of lethal means safety for the military and veteran culture.”
At the summit’s closure, William H. Williams, Director, CSB Operations/Emergency Management and a military veteran, commented on the theme that ran through the summit: “compassion… people who are fixed on helping persons who have served their country in the most dramatic situations. I really thank you for that.”
Suicide is a growing concern; it was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States in 2017. Between 2003 to 2016, more than 3,000 veterans or service members died by suicide in Virginia.
The Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board’s (CSB) Wellness, Health Promotion & Prevention Services staff engage and involve the community in activities to help strengthen emotional health, increase awareness and build resiliency skills to handle life stressors.
Services are provided throughout the county and include community-focused workshops, campaigns to raise awareness and improve health, and evidence-based programming including how to recognize and assist someone who is experiencing depression and anxiety, how to recognize the signs and symptoms of suicide and how to build resilient communities.
CSB’s Wellness, Health Promotion and Prevention staff attend community events to provide information and answer questions about CSB’s prevention program and services. For more information or to request a staff presentation, contact Marla Zometsky, 703-559-3000, TTY 711.
For more information about general CSB services, call CSB Entry & Referral at 703-383-8500, TTY 711, or come directly to the Merrifield Center for a screening, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Emergency mental health services are available 24/7 by calling 703-573-5679, TTY 711, or come directly to the Merrifield Center's lower level. The Fairfax Detoxification Center is also available 24/7 at 703-502-7000, TTY 703-322-9080.