Suicide in the United States is on the rise. From 1999 through 2014, the age-adjusted suicide rate surged 24 percent, from 10.5 to 13 per 100,000 people, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
For one group in particular, the numbers are even more staggering. 2016 findings from the Department of Veterans Affairs shows that the suicide rate among veterans rose 35 percent since 2001. The VA estimates that 20 veterans die from suicide each day.
“Suicide is a significant public health problem worldwide and across all demographics. For veterans, as well as active service members, it is at an all-time high,” said Arthur M. Nezu, PhD, Distinguished University Professor of Psychology at Drexel’s College of Arts and Sciences.
To address this mental health crisis, he and Christine Maguth Nezu, PhD, also a psychology professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, have launched “New Beginnings,” a skills training program designed to help veterans reduce stress, improve relationships and achieve meaningful life goals. The clinic is funded in part by a three-year grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts and is free for veterans of all sexes and ages, regardless of discharge status and VA affiliation.
“The bottom-line goal is to reduce suicide risk, but the program is open to all veterans, whether they have relationship problems, depression, anxiety, or confused about their future. Such problems and stressors are often precursors to suicide,” Nezu said.
“New Beginnings” offers five to eight counseling sessions on Drexel’s campus, which are staffed by doctoral students in Drexel’s Department of Psychology. The students have received specific training to work with veteran populations and are supervised by Nezu and Maguth Nezu, who are licensed and board-certified clinical psychologists. They have previously served as expert consultants to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense and the Air Force.
The Drexel psychologists cite several reasons why suicide rates among veterans are rising, and say it is not only those who faced combat who are suffering.
“People in the military are used to receiving training in a variety of skill sets, we offer ones specifically geared to handle personal adjustment difficulties and stress,” said Nezu.
The Nezus’ research shows that while under stress, the propensity to emotionally react strongly can lead to higher suicide risk. That is why “New Beginnings” focuses on providing veterans with the “toolkits” to more effectively solve their problems and cope with stressors.
“Our approach is to teach people several important strategies to manage and to cope with their everyday problems that can be very stressful and challenging,” Maguth Nezu said. “That means learning to manage their emotional reactivity, learning to use their emotions in a way that informs their decision-making, and learning to increase their hopefulness.”
“New Beginnings” offers weekly, individual sessions based at Stratton Hall, 3201 Chestnut Street, in Philadelphia. To make an appointment or learn more about the program, call 215.571.4342 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the New Beginnings website to learn more.