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Suicide is one of the top causes of death everywhere in the world, every year, for all age groups. Considering the large number of risk factors for suicide and the magnitude of the task, is suicide really preventable? Although reducing and preventing suicide in all populations at risk is important, finding effective ways to deal with veteran suicide is especially important due to the extremely high rate of suicide among military veterans. The fact of the matter is that in life you will never succeed if you never try. Thus, we confront the difficult tasks involved in reducing and eliminating suicide.

Effective Suicide Prevention Strategies

Although there is still no all-in-one cure for stopping suicides there are approaches that have been shown to be effective. These include means of identification of those at risk. This includes training of gatekeepers and primary care physicians, targeted screening of those at risk, effective public education, media coverage that is responsible, and restriction of means of suicide as one is able. Once at-risk individuals are identified, psychotherapy and treatments with medicines have been shown to be effective. Psychedelics medicines appear to offer an excellent way to reduce risk factors like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse disorders. In addition to treatment of individuals at risk, a wider view needs to be used to facilitate interventions in communities.

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Identifying Risk of Suicide

It is not always easy to identify who is at risk for suicide and to what degree. Although suicide risk factors are high in the population, suicide is much less common. What we do know is that those with mental illness have a much higher incidence of suicide than those without such problems. This applies to issues like social isolation, transition for military to civilian life, relationship breakups, and chronic, disabling, painful physical issues. This is a big part of why we at No Fallen Heroes are so interested in psychedelic medicines. They appear to be much more effective when combined with talk therapy than other approaches in eliminating mental illness issues like depression, PTSD, and substance abuse disorders. By curing these risk factors we expect to see a significant reduction in veteran suicides.

Suicide Among Those With Mental Illnesses

Depending on the specific mental health condition, the rate of suicide attempts ranges from 15% to 50%. A disturbing finding is that many times an at-risk individual was in contact with a care giver or other individual who would have had the ability to initiate care and or preventive services. Evidence shows that in as much as 80% of such cases the patient in question did not receive treatment targeted at their mental illness at such times. No matter how effective MDMA can be with psychotherapy for curing PTSD, it will never have a change to help if the person never gets treated. Likewise, no matter how effective psilocybin can be in treating depression, the individual needs to recognize the problem and enter into treatment for it to help.

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How Do You Know If You Are Depressed?

Throughout life we are taught to be problem solvers. This is especially true in the US military. Tough it out. Suck it up. Get the job done no matter how difficult or dangerous the situation is. This mindset is necessary in combat situations but takes its toll. One problem that emerges is that a person is chronically depressed and does not realize it. They are sad, have no appetite or energy, are unable to concentrate, and lose self-esteem. Because the person has been trained to soldier through their difficulties they do not see that they have a mental health condition that could be treated and improved.  The same too often applies to recognizing depression in those whom we work or live with. Knowing that you or anyone else are depressed is an essential first step to getting help and reducing the risk of suicide. Recognizing and seeking treatment for mental illness is not weak. It is the smart thing to do.

Being Aware of Veteran Suicide as a Problem Is an Essential First Step

As we noted at the beginning, you never succeed if you never try. And you never try until you are aware of the problem. This is the case with suicide in general and veteran suicide in particular. Keeping this issue in front of the public and in front of politicians is important. Keeping the issue of suicide in front of caregivers and those intimately associated with veterans at risk is critical if we are going to reduce and eventually eliminate suicide among veterans as well as among the population at large.

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