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Matthieu MM, Gardiner G, Ziegemeier E, Buxton M, Han L, Cross W. Veterans’ mental health: Personal and professional knowledge of and experience with suicide and suicide prevention among Veteran stakeholders in community and clinical practice. Social work in mental health. 2014 May 30; 12(5-6):443-456.
Community-dwelling veterans at risk for suicide may be in contact with a variety of providers in agency-based settings that offer health and human services. The study aim is to describe the perspective of agency-based clinical and community providers who may come into contact with veterans in need of suicide prevention services and to examine the nature of their personal and professional relationships to individuals at risk for suicide among this sample. This study reports on qualitative data from a sample of Veterans' Affairs (VA) and community providers serving veterans and military families in one Midwestern state (N = 70). Providers completed a survey assessing exposure to suicide, including contact with and relationship to someone suicidal, and organizational characteristics of the providers' employing agencies. Semi-structured interview questions probed for the nature of how they would react with suicidal individuals. Most providers (94%) had some prior contact with someone who was suicidal, and nearly three quarters (77%) knew someone who had died by suicide. Providers reported powerful emotional responses of sadness and remorse to suicidal experiences. While these providers interact with veterans and military families as part of their jobs, they may have their own history of being exposed to suicide, both professionally and personally.