Today, Second Lady Karen Pence participated in a call hosted by PREVENTS to address ways faith-based communities and organizations can play a role in ending veteran suicide. The call was in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiative (CFOI) and the National Chaplain Center.
As the Lead Ambassador for PREVENTS, Mrs. Pence emphasized the importance of PREVENTS in leading the change around suicide prevention and how more than ever before we need to empower and support veterans experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings. She also emphasized the way an individual’s connection to a faith based community serves as a protective factor, which are personal or environmental characteristics that help protect people from suicide.
Pastors and faith leaders serve a critical role in fostering purpose, connectivity, interpersonal relationships, and a sense of belonging for our veterans. Data suggest that adherence to religious beliefs is associated with lower rates of suicide. Also, studies have shown that rates of suicide attempts were significantly lower among religious subjects. Mrs. Pence recognized the unique role pastors and religious leaders have in expanding the reach of suicide prevention efforts and in providing support to vulnerable and hard to reach veterans.
On average, 132 Americans die by suicide each day accounting for 47,173 suicide deaths in 2017, and in 2017 there was an estimated 1.4 million attempted suicides. For veterans, the overall suicide rate is 1.5 times higher.
PREVENTS recently launched their national health campaign called REACH, which aims to empower veterans and all Americans to play a role in preventing suicide. Click here to learn more about the REACH Campaign.
Meeting Participants Included:
- Vice President Mike Pence
- Robert Wilkie, Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs
- Major General Thomas L. Solhjem, Chief of Chaplains, Office of the Chief of Chaplains, Department of Defense, DOD Chaplain
- Dr. Juliana Lesher, VA National Director of Chaplaincy
- Conrad Washington, Acting Director, VA Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiative
- Jennifer Korn, Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director for the White House Office of Public Liaison
- Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, PREVENTS Executive Director