This Advanced Research Workshop (ARW), “Wounds of War: Lowering Suicide Risk in Returning Troops,” was convened to discuss the topic of increased suicide risk in service men and women around the world. Research has shown that those who have served in both combat missions and peacekeeping operations are at an increased risk for suicide. Research suggests that this may result from their “wounds of war”. Some wounds may be more “invisible”; such as depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and chronic pain, while others are more visibly apparent; such as physical disabilities. Whatever the wound, however, it seems they may all lead to an increased risk of suicide.
During this workshop, we discussed many aspects of military suicide and how to more effectively deal with this issue. Specifically, some of the questions addressed were:
1. How do we detect those who are vulnerable to increased suicide risk, possibly due to a combination of genetics and past environmental insults?
2. How do we most appropriately assess for increased risk?
3. Once detected, how do we help to decrease that risk?
4. Are there pre-deployment training methods we can employ to help “inoculate” individuals against increased risk?
5. Are there in-theater and post-deployment methods most appropriate for dealing with this risk?
Through this workshop, we have come closer to understanding what programs are already in place in various countries for detection, assessment, prevention, and treatment. We have begun to learn from these existing plans and can start to formulate a more common set of best practices and guidelines which can be implemented throughout organizations in all our countries; having as our common goal to always seek to serve our service members more effectively.
This Advanced Research Workshop has given participants an opportunity to foster essential international collaborative research on military suicide, a common and disabling consequence of war, terrorism, and natural disasters. As a result, it represents an important landmark in efforts to help soldiers and civilians of NATO and partner nations become more resilient in the face of international conflict.
This publication, which contains full papers focused on the key presentations during the workshop, acts as the permanent record of this event; a tangible documentation of the ideas that formed the basis of discussion and collaboration at the workshop. This text is organized to mirror the program from the event so as to provide an overview of the ideas of presenters and participants in the ARW.
Financial support for the workshop was provided by several sponsors. Great thanks to the primary funder, the NATO Security through Science Programme. In addition, we would like to acknowledge the generous contributions of the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) of the U.S. Army, as well as the Austrian Ministry of Defence (MoD).
The workshop was organized and this accompanying publication was compiled and edited jointly by the Interactive Media Institute, San Diego, California, USA and Interactive Media Institute-Europe (IMI-E), Brussels, Belgium. Professor Brenda K. Wiederhold, program co-chair, conceived the overall design of the workshop and recruited co-chairs Professor Dragica Kozarić Kovačić, of the University Hospital Dubrava in Zagreb, Croatia, and Professor Kresimir Cosic, of University of Zagreb and the Croatian Parliament to help with the event. With the assistance of her co-chairs, Dr. Wiederhold selected and invited the majority of the speakers and participants, and conference coordinators Ruth Kogen, MFA and Magda Horodyska, M.S. organized logistics including registration, travel, lodging and meals, assembling of workshop materials, and other arrangements for the ARW. Professor Dragica Kozarić Kovačić and Professor Cosic extended invitations to several distinguished international speakers, further improving the quality of the workshop. Mag. Christian Marolt uncovered the beautiful Austrian location where the event took place and Astrid Mentzik was responsible for the artistic design of all event-related materials. Sinisa Popovic, Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing, University of Zagreb, served as the event's photographer. Ms. Kogen along with McKinley Tolliver reviewed the conference program and full manuscripts, helping with editing and assembly of this and other associated texts.