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Yes, your supportive texts to your battle buddy actually help prevent military suicide, study says
(Reuters Health) - Military service members who are at risk for suicide may be less likely to attempt to harm themselves when they receive supportive text messages, a U.S. study suggests.
Soldiers in the study had all received behavioral health services for considering or attempting suicide in the past, and all were on active duty, in the Reserve or in the National Guard. They all received standard treatments like medication or psychotherapy as needed; half of the 650 participants were also randomly assigned to received occasional texts with messages like "hope you're having a good day."
Over the course of a year, people who received these texts were 44 percent less likely to experience suicidal thoughts and 48 percent less likely to attempt suicide than those who didn't get the messages.
"Social disconnection is one of the strongest and most established risk factors for suicide," said study co-author Amanda Kerbrat, a psychiatry and behavioral health researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle.
"This approach responds to this need in a way that is both effective and feasible," Kerbrat said by email.
The texting initiative, called Caring Contacts, involved a series of 11 text messages sent on day 1, at week 1, and then monthly as well as on participants' birthdays. This schedule didn't vary based on whether people exhibited suicidal behavior, and the messages were not designed to require any reply.
"We are not waiting for them to reach out to health care - Caring Contacts thus offers support that is not contingent on what the recipient does or does not do," Kerbrat said. "Clinicians were often just engaging in a brief, positive exchange about how a service member's day was going."
Over the year, 21 of 233 service members who received texts and completed the study attempted suicide, as did 34 of the 228 people who only got standard care.
However, there was no meaningful difference between the groups in how often participants were hospitalized, required medical evacuations or how likely people were to report current suicidal thoughts in interviews at 6 and 12 months.
One limitation of the study is that only 70 percent of participants stuck with it through the final assessments, researchers note in JAMA Psychiatry. The study was also limited to service members who had discussedsuicide with a clinician, and results might be different for military personnel who don't seek help for suicidal thoughts, the study authors point out.
Because the total number of suicide attempts was low, it is hard to draw broad conclusions about how effective texts may have been at reducing these episodes, they add.
It's also possible that the study had mixed results because the texts didn't make a meaningful difference in how socially connected service members felt, Dr. Murray Stein of the University of California, San Diego and colleagues write in an accompanying editorial.
"One wonders if active-duty military personnel and reservists, who are embedded in a rich social milieu that, if nothing else, is hardly isolating, are likely to have their perceptions of belongingness altered by 11 text messages over a year," Stein and his coauthors write.
Moreover, restricting access to firearms has been found in previous research to be among the most effective tools for reducing deaths by suicide, they note.
Still, the results add to evidence suggesting that suicide prevention isn't one-size-fits-all, said Dr. Charles Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Maryland, who wrote a separate editorial accompanying the study.
"The results are not necessarily surprising, but they highlight the complexity of the problem, limited expectations of any single intervention, and the importance of considering multi-modal strategies," Hoge said by email.
If you're thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor. Use that same number and press "1" to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.
A Marine wanted for killing his mother's boyfriend reportedly escaped police by hiding inside an RV they'd spent hours searching before towing it to a parking lot, where he escaped under the cover of darkness.
It wasn't until more than two weeks later authorities finally caught up to Michael Brown at his mom's home, which was the scene of the crime.
Brown stuffed himself into a tight spot in his camper during an hours-long search of the vehicle on Nov. 10, according to NBC affiliate WSLS in Virginia. A day earlier, cops said Brown fatally shot his mother's boyfriend, Rodney Brown. The AWOL Marine remained on the lam until Nov. 27, where he was finally apprehended without incident.
No motive is yet known for last week's Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard shooting tragedy, which appears to have been a random act of violence in which the sailor who fatally shot two civilian workers and himself did not know them and did not plan his actions ahead of time, shipyard commander Capt. Greg Burton said in an "All Hands" message sent out Friday.
Machinist's Mate Auxiliary Fireman Gabriel Antonio Romero of San Antonio, an armed watch-stander on the attack submarine USS Columbia, shot three civilian workers Dec. 4 and then turned a gun on himself while the sub rested in dry dock 2 for a major overhaul, the Navy said.
"The investigation continues, but there is currently no known motive and no information to indicate the sailor knew any of the victims," Burton said.
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said it had successfully conducted another test at a satellite launch site, the latest in a string of developments aimed at "restraining and overpowering the nuclear threat of the U.S.", state news agency KCNA reported on Saturday.
The test was conducted on Friday at the Sohae satellite launch site, KCNA said, citing a spokesman for North Korea's Academy of Defence Science, without specifying what sort of testing occurred.
Since the Washington Post first published the "Afghanistan papers," I have been reminded of a scene from "Apocalypse Now Redux" in which Army Col. Walter Kurtz reads to the soldier assigned to kill him two Time magazine articles showing how the American people had been lied to about Vietnam by both the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations.
In one of the articles, a British counterinsurgency expert tells Nixon that "things felt much better and smelled much better" during his visit to Vietnam.
"How do they smell to you, soldier?" Kurtz asks.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Erik Prince, the controversial private security executive and prominent supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump, made a secret visit to Venezuela last month and met Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, one of socialist leader Nicolas Maduro's closest and most outspoken allies, according to five sources familiar with the matter.