A pre-pandemic Gallup poll found that nearly eight in ten Americans admit to frequently or sometimes encountering stress in their daily lives. Per the CDC we now know that pandemic amplified stress affects everyone. Furthermore, the pandemic has increased all induced symptoms of stress, including headache, upset stomach, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, chest pain, anxiety and depression. Research has revealed that the latter two symptoms are corelated with higher suicide risk.
For calendar year 2020, the Well Being Trust estimates that an additional 68,000 deaths of despair—deaths which are due to drugs, alcohol and suicide—were caused by the pandemic; establishing a definitive link between amplified chronic stress and increased suicidal ideation. To put the 68,000 excess deaths of despair into perspective, this number is greater than the total number of people who died from breast cancer in the U.S. in the same timeframe and is on par with the total number of casualties the U.S. suffered during the entirety of the American Revolution.
While deaths from suicide and / or despair are on the rise across all demographics, research reveals that certain groups, inclusive of current and former members of the military, fare much worse. Per the 2019 VA Suicide Prevention Annual Report, veterans are more than 1.5 times more likely to die from suicide than members of the general U.S. population.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines resilience as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” Regarding suicide prevention, resilience can also be defined as an ability to refrain from choosing a permanent solution for a temporary problem. Resilience is what allows one to patiently persevere through a present episode of personal adversity.
A spring of 2022 2-Dooz performed Google key words search confirmed that there is no shortage of advice for “how to become more resilient.” The search returned 194 million results. While only two-dozen of the returned ideas where studied in detail, the search reveals that all of the resilience suggestions appear to have the following in common, regardless of the number of articulated steps: (1) awareness, (2) focused attention, and (3) perseverance. Ironically, all three of these suggested steps are also common to stress management. Note that personal crisis—the kind which may lead to a higher risk of a death of despair—evokes a stress response. And suggests that better managing stress is a key to being more resilient and possibly a key to preventing suicide.
The Resilience Suicide Prevention Study is examining how chronic stress punctuated by acute stress during a personal crisis can increase a military veteran’s risk of a death of despair. The large-scale multiyear study will explore the effect that chronic stress and acute stress respectively have on our military veterans regarding suicidal ideation.
The first stage of the study targets the stress levels of non-PTSD, non-AD, and non-DD diagnosed veteran volunteers. The group is being monitored to correlate their assessed anxiety, depression, and stress levels to their suicide risk levels. A final stage of the study is expected to test how biofeedback powered stress monitoring can be used as an adjunct tool within a highly personalized suicide prevention program. More specifically, biofeedback-based stress monitoring is expected to aid in awareness—a first step of a greater resilience protocol.
Learn more about how you can support Vets in this important research.