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Increasing chaplain support for veterans at high risk for suicide through targeted outreach: A quality improvement initiative.
Smigelsky MA, Maynard JL, Ford CG, Parker R, Wortmann JH, Meador KG, Fink A, Nieuwsma JA. Increasing chaplain support for veterans at high risk for suicide through targeted outreach: A quality improvement initiative. Journal of health care chaplaincy. 2022 Oct 26; 1-13.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has prioritized improving the identification of veterans at risk for suicide and ensuring adequate staffing of personnel to assist veterans in need. It is imperative that suicide prevention efforts make use of the full range of available resources, including diverse professionals with distinctive skillsets. Chaplains are engaged in suicide prevention efforts in VA, but the literature lacks examples of chaplain-involved suicide prevention efforts that clearly describe how chaplains are engaged, the training and/or qualifications chaplains possess in the area of suicide prevention, and the reach and impact of such efforts. The purpose of this report is to describe the development and implementation of a novel, innovative, and ongoing chaplain-led suicide prevention outreach initiative for veterans at high risk for suicide. Results indicated the program was feasible and supported at the systems level, and chaplains were able to collaboratively sustain outreach efforts over the course of a year. Chaplain suicide prevention outreach was found to be acceptable to veterans, who overwhelmingly indicated openness to and appreciation for outreach. Chaplains can address the spiritual crisis underlying suicidality, bolster spiritual protective factors, and are a part of holistic care. Considerations for implementation and future investigation are discussed.