Developing a Research Strategy for Suicide Prevention in the Department of Defense: Status of Current Research, Prioritizing Areas of Need, and Recommendations for Moving Forward

Developing a Research Strategy for Suicide Prevention in the Department of Defense: Status of Current Research, Prioritizing Areas of Need, and Recommendations for Moving Forward

Developing a Research Strategy for Suicide Prevention in the Department of Defense: Status of Current Research, Prioritizing Areas of Need, and Recommendations for Moving Forward

Developing a Research Strategy for Suicide Prevention in the Department of Defense: Status of Current Research, Prioritizing Areas of Need, and Recommendations for Moving Forward

Synopsis

In response to the elevated rate of suicide among U.S. service members, a congressionally mandated task force recommended that the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) create a unified, comprehensive strategic plan for suicide prevention research to ensure that DoD-funded studies align with DoD's goals. To help meet this objective, a RAND study cataloged the research funded by DoD and other entities that is directly relevant to military personnel, examined the extent to which current research maps to DoD's strategic research needs, and provided recommendations to ensure that proposed research strategies align with the national research strategy and integrate with DoD's data collection and program evaluation strategies. The study found that although DoD is one of the largest U.S. funders of research related to suicide prevention, its current funding priorities do not consistently reflect its research needs. The study indexed each of 12 research goals according to rankings of importance, effectiveness, cultural acceptability, cost, and learning potential provided by experts who participated in a multistep elicitation exercise. The results revealed that research funding is overwhelmingly allocated to prevention goals already considered by experts to be effective. Other goals considered by experts to be important and appropriate for the military context receive relatively little funding and have been the subject of relatively few studies, meaning that there is still much to learn about these strategies. Furthermore, DoD, like other organizations, suffers from a research-to-practice gap. The most promising results from studies funded by DoD and other entities do not always find their way to those responsible for implementing suicide prevention programs that serve military personnel. The RAND study recommended approaches to thoughtfully integrate the latest research findings into DoD's operating procedures to ensure that evidence-based approaches can benefit suicide prevention programs and prevent the further loss of lives to suicide.

Excerpt

In response to concerns about the elevated rate of suicide among U.S. service members, the congressionally mandated Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces offered a series of recommendations to help strengthen the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) suicide prevention programs. the task force’s final recommendation was for DoD to “create a unified, strategic, and comprehensive DoD plan for research in military suicide prevention ensuring that the DoD’s military suicide prevention research portfolio is thoughtfully planned to cover topics in prevention, intervention, and postvention” (U.S. Department of Defense Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces, 2010, p. ES-18).

The rand Corporation was asked to provide guidance that DoD can use to develop this recommended unified, strategic, and comprehensive plan. the study was organized around three overarching research aims: (1) catalog research being conducted on suicide prevention that is directly relevant to military personnel, (2) examine whether current research maps onto DoD’s strategic research needs related to suicide prevention, and (3) ensure that any proposed DoD research strategy aligns with the national research strategy and is integrated with DoD’s data, surveillance, and program evaluation strategies. rand took a multidisciplinary approach to meeting these three aims, drawing from the disciplines of psychology, epidemiology, statistics, and economics. This report presents the results of the study. It should be of interest to policy officials charged with implementing suicide prevention programs, analysts who compile suicide prevention research portfolios for program evaluation or other purposes, and others who are engaged in ensuring a comprehensive response to suicide among service members, including members of Congress and military and veteran service organizations.

This research was sponsored by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the rand National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

For more information on the rand Forces and Resources Center, see http://www.rand. org/nsrd/ndri/centers/frp.html or contact the director (contact information is provided on the web page).

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