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FCW : February 2015
Preventing such suicides depends in part on the quality of the govern- ment’s data on potential contributing factors such as mental health and disciplinary history. Officials at the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs have underlined that point by making improved data management one of the bedrocks of their suicide- prevention strategies in recent years. Interviews with DOD and VA offi- cials reveal a joint data policy to track suicides that is gradually get- ting off the ground and overcoming bureaucratic inertia. At the same time, however, a recent report by DOD’s inspector general revealed that the information in the department’s main collection system for suicide data — recent improvements notwithstanding — is often incomplete. The IG investigation, published last month, made clear the potential consequences of flawed reporting of suicides and called inadequate suicide- prevention programs “a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety.” The technology at issue is a DOD- wide database created in 2008 for reporting service-member suicides and suicide attempts: the DOD Suicide Event Report (DODSER). Information February 2015 FCW.COM 23 Something as impersonal and mundane as incomplete datasets could be exacerbating a national tragedy: the suicides of thousands of veterans and hundreds of active-duty service members every year. PREVENTING SUICIDES THROUGH BETTER DATA The Defense and Veterans Affairs departments are trying to reduce suicides among service members, but collecting the right data is proving to be an ongoing challenge BY SEAN LYNGAAS 0215fcw_023-026.indd 23 1/27/15 9:36 AM
March 15, 2015