Strengthening and Expanding Lethal Means Safety and Storage Training to Prevent Veteran Suicide
October 25, 2022
Outside New York State
Firearms are the most common method of suicide among veterans; they account for more than 70% of total deaths by suicide in the veteran community, compared with 20% in the non-veteran community.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an unprecedented increase in the number of firearms purchased. The Counseling on Access to Lethal Means (CALM) training model is the only training evaluated by peer-reviewed research that shows its efficacy and remains the gold standard for lethal means access counseling. Research highlights the important role that family members play in the support of individuals at high risk for suicide. In the first phase of NYHealth-supported work, a coalition of partners tailored the CALM training for non-clinicians. In 2022, NYHealth awarded the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center (CVA) a grant to develop and deliver comprehensive suicide prevention training tools to ensure New York’s veterans, family members and caregivers, and veteran-serving organizations are equipped to discuss firearms and safe storage with loved ones who may be in crisis.
Under this grant, CVA will develop workshops and materials with expertise from firearm-owning veterans and family members, members of suicide prevention coalitions, and experts in the field of lethal means safety. It will hold regular meetings and conduct focus groups to ensure that activities reflect the needs of veterans and families. CVA will pilot the workshops in county-level suicide prevention coalitions in Jefferson, Monroe, Orange, Onondaga, and Erie counties. To promote trust and buy-in, workshops will be co-delivered by a local firearm owner/safety expert who has served in the military. To amplify the project’s reach, CVA will host two train-the-trainer sessions for participants from additional veteran-serving organizations and provide guidance on leading the firearm safety workshop. Each trained leader will further conduct a CVA-supervised lethal means safety workshop in their respective communities. CVA will evaluate workshops to assess participants’ knowledge in safe gun storage options, as well as participants’ perceived competence in discussing lethal means safety. It will also update the training website with new resources and work with partners to include the training into core staff training requirements for a range of veteran-serving entities.