North Carolina AHEC Program
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Warriors in Distress: Suicide Among Our Soldiers at War and at Home

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On May 8, 2013, Wake AHEC hosted “Warriors in Distress: Suicide Among Our Soldiers at War and at Home” with 120 health care professionals including counselors, nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, psychologists, social workers and ministers. The program was part of the A-TrACC Project for the Behavioral/Mental Health of Veterans/Service Members and Families through the Health Resources and Services Administration.

Carol and Major General Mark Graham“Suicide is the most frequent cause of death among Army forces, surpassing combat deaths and motor vehicle accidents. From 2004 to 2009, the suicide rate within the force doubled. During the month of August 2012, thirty-eight Army soldiers took their own lives.” - General Raymond Odierno, Army Chief of Staff

Contributing factors vary from multiple deployments, drugs and alcohol, stressed family conditions and relationships, and gun control issues. This program addressed suicide as one of the most challenging dilemmas ever faced by our military. Also addressed during this program was what makes this population so vulnerable, cover stories of real lives that have witnessed and experienced suicide, and resources for optimal care and follow-up.

Mark Graham, Major General, US Army (Ret) and his wife Carol (photo upper right) were keynote speakers. The presentation was titled: “Land of the Free Because of the Brave.” The Grahams shared the story about their two sons, Kevin and Jeff (left and right in the photo lower right) who died fighting different battles; Jeff to an IED and Kevin to suicide. General Graham and Carol have a passion for all who may be suffering from depression and may be at risk for suicide. 

Kevin and Jeff GrahamThe conference also included sessions on behavioral resources through Tricare, military culture as related to behavioral risks, and ended with the testimony from a family who has experienced firsthand the effects of physical, psychological and social stress on the military member as well as all those around them.