Raising suicide awareness

The suicide rate among both male and female U.S. Veterans is soaring, according to recent reports. That trend, coupled with the personal experiences of their colleagues, convinced members of the UAB School of Nursing’s Student Nurses Association to take a proactive role in raising awareness of this growing national issue.

The suicide rate among both male and female U.S. Veterans is soaring, according to recent reports. That trend, coupled with the personal experiences of their colleagues, convinced members of the UAB School of Nursing’s Student Nurses Association to take a proactive role in raising awareness of this growing national issue.

1409-D022The UABSNA students brought attention to the suicide issue by presenting a resolution at the April 2014 National Student Nurses Association (NSNA) convention, in Nashville.

 “Our goal was to bring awareness to this very taboo subject and be a voice for America’s heroes. Our resolution advocated for an increased awareness of the suicide prevention resources available for Veterans and their families. The resolution passed with a 99 percent vote, the highest out of more than 60 resolutions that were presented,” said Selena DaCosta, RN, former UABSNA board member and current graduate advisor to the UAB Student Nurses Association.

 “Two of us have been personally affected by suicide,” said Cassie Cobb, RN, who graduated from the School of Nursing in April and now works in one of UAB Hospital’s intensive care units. “In my case, my grandfather, a World War II Veteran, took his own life after learning he had cancer. Another SNA board member actually walked in on her Veteran father who had a gun in his hand. Fortunately, she was able to talk him out of using it on himself.

“I wanted to let people know about the resources that are out there,” Cobb continued, “because in my family we didn’t know the signs to look for and didn’t realize what was happening.”  

National SNA members learned about suicide-prevention resources available to Veterans and their families based upon this advocacy by the UABSNA leaders. “Several Veterans were at the convention and they came up to us afterwards to share their enthusiasm for the resolution,” Cobb said.

Before the UABSNA board members actually began drafting the resolution they put in long hours of research and preparation. They also sought the advice and support of their faculty advisor, Summer Langston, DNP, Assistant Professor of Nursing, and faculty member Randy Moore, DNP, who is himself a Veteran and an Assistant Professor of Nursing.

Moore also works with the School of Nursing’s VA Nursing Academy Partnership, which was established in 2009 in conjunction with the Birmingham VA Medical Center. He said some of the SNA board members who worked on the resolution were members of the Academy or had taken a VA elective that’s open to all School of Nursing students, thus giving them a deeper insight into Veteran's issues. He also credits the vision and collaboration between the Birmingham VA Medical Center senior nursing leadership, including Associate Director and BVAMC CNO Cynthia Cleveland, DNP, RN; VANA Co-Program Director Kim Froelich, PhD, RN; and UAB School of Nursing Dean Doreen Harper, PhD, RN, FAAN, with continuing “to produce viable, real-world pertinent outcomes related to the care of Veterans.”   

1409-D219According to Moore, the students felt that what they had learned about the care of Veterans and their families might not be penetrating other schools of nursing as deeply as what they had been exposed to at UAB.

“They decided to heighten awareness by concentrating on one specific issue,” he said. “They asked my opinion of the idea, and I told them I thought it was fantastic. Once they had completed their work, I made some suggestions and comments, and directed them toward a couple of other topics within the broader subject of suicide among Veterans that they could speak on.”

Students substantiated their effort by researching and citing pertinent articles within the literature. “It was a lot of work all the way around,” Langston said. “They had to do considerable prep work beforehand, and then when they arrived at the convention, they were confronted with a very busy environment. They also had to attend hearings and man a table, where convention-goers could drop by and ask questions about authoring the resolution.”

Last modified on October 24, 2017

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