Escape Rooms Are Revolutionizing Suicide Prevention Training for VA Staff


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CHICAGO, Ill. – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is stepping up its game when it comes to training its staff to deal with suicidal veterans. Enter: Mental Health Escape Rooms.

The VA Black Hills Healthcare System in South Dakota has created a mental health escape room called “Don’t Wait, Reach Out” to teach staff how to intervene in situations involving suicidal patients. This innovative approach was implemented during Suicide Prevention Month in September and has already proven to be a highly impactful training tool.

During the simulation, participants must work together, communicate effectively, conduct a safety sweep of the room, and implement appropriate care for the simulated patient. But why use escape rooms for training?

Well, for starters, escape rooms are fun! They’re gamification modalities that use hidden puzzles to create a sense of adventure and excitement. But more importantly, they also provide an opportunity for teams to practice communication, clinical skills, leadership, and problem-solving in a dynamic and innovative way.

Research has shown that using escape rooms for training purposes can increase engagement, teamwork, and understanding. And the VA plans to continue using mental health escape rooms and other innovative methods to train staff and support training efforts across the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).

The staff at VA Black Hills HCS, including nurses, social workers, chaplains, and respiratory therapy professionals, found the exercise highly impactful. It’s clear that escape rooms are becoming an essential part of the training process for VA staff, and it’s exciting to see such an innovative approach being used across the country one day to support our veterans.

If you or someone you know is a veteran experiencing suicidal thoughts or an emotional crisis, please call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for immediate support. 


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