Not too long ago, Veterans had lower suicide rates than non-Veterans. That’s changed in recent decades. And the pain is felt not just by the individual who suffers but by their family and friends who notice, worry, and want to help but aren’t sure how. It was for those friends and family that the Worried About a Veteran (WAV) website was developed. WAV (pronounced “wave”) grew out of the New York State Governors Challenge to Prevent Suicide among Service Members, Veterans and Families (SMVF). Work began in March 2020 when the Lethal Means Safety Workgroup was established.
Seventy percent of Veterans who take their lives use a firearm, and many never seek treatment or support. One way family and friends can protect a struggling Veteran is to help ensure that the guns at home can’t be used in a suicide attempt – and to do that in ways that feel right to the Veteran. Another way is to talk with them in honest, useful ways about getting the support they need. With planning assistance from SAMHSA’s SMVF TA Center and funding from the NY Health Foundation, the workgroup set out to equip friends and family on both fronts.
We contracted with Cathy Barber and Elaine Frank, experts in the field of lethal means safety, to advise the Workgroup and assist in writing the content for the website and video scripts, adapting their Counseling on Access to Lethal Means (CALM) curriculum to a user-friendly format for friends and family. We also secured Modern Epic to produce the videos and Elevation to bring our shared vision to a website.
A vital first step in adapting CALM for WAV was to learn from Veterans’ family members. Clinicians on the workgroup interviewed families whose loved one had struggled or died to ask about their own journeys and what would have helped them. Based on the invaluable insight, wisdom, and passion these family members shared, the workgroup crafted the website you are visiting today.
This website is dedicated to the Service Members, Veterans and their families for the sacrifices they make and in recognition of both those who lost their struggle to suicide and the many more who recovered and flourish today.
Project Planning core team
Marianne Goodman, Ph.D. is a Professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Associate Director of the Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 2 Mental Illness, Research, Education and Clinical Center, located at the James J. Peters VA (Bronx VA). For the past 23 years she has provided clinical care to high-risk suicidal Veterans and conducted clinical research in suicide biomarkers, novel suicide treatment development and family approaches to suicide prevention. She has been an integral member of the family website project from its inception and involved with all aspects of its creation
Stephanie Gamble, Ph.D. is Deputy Director, VA Center of Excellence for Suicide Prevention, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Rochester Medical Center
Dr. Gamble directs the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Behavioral Health Autopsy Program, where she leads national efforts to conduct systematic reviews of the factors and contexts surrounding Veterans’ suicides to inform VA’s suicide prevention efforts and promote the health and well-being of Veterans and their families. She currently serves as a delegate to the NY and NJ Governors’ Challenge Teams and is a member of the New York State Suicide Prevention Council.
Jason Skinner has a Bachelor’s of Science in Community and Human Services with a concentration in Veterans Services from the State University of New York, Empire State. He is currently the Livingston County Director of Veteran Services, National Association of Counties Veterans and Military Families Vice Chairman (NACO), member of National Association of County Veterans Service Officers (NACVSO), New York State County Service Officer Association President (NYCVSOA), and Finger Lakes Veterans Advocacy Council (FLVAC) President. Jason is Iraq war veteran who has been working with veterans and their families for over a decade. He is known for advocacy and networking to provide quality services to the local government level. Most notably his accomplishments in advocacy were a 150% increase of state revenue to local government and state-wide expansion of peer support for veterans at $100,000 per county. He is thankful for the gifted experts on this team for this tool that will make a difference in the world of suicide prevention.
Derek Coy currently serves as a Program Officer at the New York Health Foundation (formerly, NYSHealth) where he focuses on expanding veterans’ access to community-based services and increasing the quality of resources available to returning veterans in New York State. For more than a decade, he has served as a thought leader, convener, and advocate for improving the health of returning veterans, and is a former Marine Sergeant and veteran of the Iraq War.
Garra Lloyd-Lester is the Coordinator, NYS Suicide Prevention Community and Coalition Initiatives for the Suicide Prevention Center of New York State (SPCNY). As Coordinator, he works with State and County partners, local governmental units, local coalitions, and other systems to build capacity to help reduce suicides across the lifespan. He also facilitates the lethal means safety workgroup as part of the Governors Challenge to prevent suicide among Service Members, Veterans, and their Families (SMVF). He does project management for a statewide initiative to address suicide prevention among first responder disciplines and facilitated the statewide taskforce to develop recommendations on addressing suicide prevention among rural communities in NYS.
Garra has developed content to support local suicide prevention coalitions and partner agencies in the areas of prevention, postvention and coalition development . He has 30+ years of experience in the field of social services including working with the developmentally disabled, working in the child welfare system and within the mental health system.
Other contributing Governors Challenge Team Members
Robert Lane, PhD is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Research Scientist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and the Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 2 Mental Illness, Research, Education and Clinical Center, located at the James J. Peters VA in Bronx, NY. He has provided clinical care to Veterans at risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors. He has also conducted clinical research regarding risk factors for suicidal thoughts and behaviors and suicide prevention via the facilitation of the disclosure of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. He has been a member of the family website project since its inception and involved with all aspects of its creation, and helped interview family members of Veterans who have been at risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors in order to obtain feedback to inform the project.
Dev Crasta, Ph.D. is a Research Investigator at the Department of Veterans Affairs Center of Excellence for Suicide Prevention and a Senior Instructor at the University of Rochester Medical Center Department of Psychiatry. Dev has been working with Veterans since 2012 and has worked with their families since 2017. His current work focuses on helping family members support one another through mental health challenges. He joined the WAV team to give input on effective communication skills and family resources.
Kristen Vescera, Ph.D., MPH is a combat Veteran having served overseas in Afghanistan in 2012-2013. She spent ten years enlisted in the United States Army Reserve as a Psychological Operations Staff Sergeant and Instructor. Dr. Vescera is currently working at the Department of Veterans Affairs Center of Excellence for Suicide Prevention in Canandaigua, NY as a Health Systems Specialist focusing on developing, disseminating, and evaluating national training and education programs aimed at preventing and reducing Veteran suicide.
Daryllee Hale is the Communications Specialist at the Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 2 Center of Excellence for Suicide Prevention. There, she supports the CoE’s initiatives through a variety of communications outlets, including social media and email marketing. Daryllee joined the WAV team to help disseminate the site via digital advertising. Previously, Daryllee worked in higher education marketing and communications, with a focus on public policy and alumni relations.
- Writers – Catherine Barber and Elaine Frank (Means Matter and CALM)
- Editors – Lethal Means Safety Workgroup
- Video production – Modern Epic (unless otherwise noted)
- Website design– Elevation
- Consulting on video and design team selection – (Center for Practice Innovations)
- Marianne Goodman
- Stephanie Gamble
- Robert Lane
- New York Health Foundation
Thanks also go to Benjamin Pomerance, Deputy Director for Program Development at the New York State Division of Veterans’ Services for guiding the entire NYS Governors Challenge Team through the development and implementation of the associated work.