Wednesday, May 21, 2008

VA Secretary Appoints Panel of National Suicide Experts
Goal Is Reducing Veterans' Suicides

WASHINGTON (May 21, 2008) -
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake today announced the names of members appointed to two special panels that will make recommendations on ways the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can improve its programs in suicide prevention, suicide research and suicide education.

"There is nothing more tragic than the death by suicide of even one of
the great men or women who have served this nation," Peake said. "VA is
committed to doing all we can to improve our understanding of a
complicated issue that is also a national concern."

Membership in the first group, the "Blue Ribbon Work Group on Suicide
Prevention in the Veterans Population," will be comprised of government
experts in various suicide prevention and education programs. Those
experts will come from agencies including the Department of Defense, the
Centers for Disease Control, the National Institute of Health, and the
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The five-member work group is expected to meet from June 11-13, and will
develop a report with recommendations for the Secretary within 15 days
of meeting.

The second group is a nine-member expert panel, made up of nationally
renowned experts in public health suicide programs, suicide research and
clinical treatment programs, that will provide professional opinion,
interpretation, and conclusions on information and data to the work
group. It will also make recommendations to the work group on
opportunities for improvement in VA's programs.

Secretary Peake initially announced the formation of the work group
during testimony to the House Veterans Affairs Committee on May 6.

Members of the "Blue Ribbon Work Group on Suicide Prevention in the
Veterans Population" include:

* Cmdr. Alex E. Crosby, M.D., medical epidemiologist with the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;

* Colonel Charles W. Hoge, M.D., director of the division of
psychiatry and behavior services at Walter Reed Army Institute of

* Colonel Robert Roy Ireland, M.D., program director for mental
health policy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health

* Richard McKeon, Ph.D., special advisor for suicide prevention
with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and

* Jane Pearson, Ph.D., associate director for preventive
interventions, National Institute of Mental Health.

Appointees to the expert panel include:

* Dr. Dan Blazer II, professor of psychology at Catholic
University of America;

* Greg Brown, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania;

* Martha Livingston Bruce, Ph.D., professor in clinical
epidemiology and health services research at Weill Medical College of
Cornell University;

* Dr. Eric D. Caine, chair of the department of psychiatry at the
University of Rochester;

* Dr. Jan Fawcett, professor of psychiatry at the University of
New Mexico School of Medicine;

* Robert D. Gibbons, director of the Center for Health Statistics,
University of Illinois at Chicago;

* David Alan Jobes, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Catholic
University of America;

* Mark S. Kaplan, Ph.D., from Portland State University. Member
of the Suicide Prevention Action Network-USA National Scientific
Advisory Council; and

* Thomas R. Ten Have, director of the Biostatistics Analysis
Center at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.