VA continues nationwide campaign to prevent suicide

The Department of Veterans Affairs is pressing on with a broad campaign to reduce veterans’ suicide.

The men and women of the armed forces fought our country’s wars. Now as returning veterans many are caught in an equally tough fight at home. Veterans often suffer wounds incurred while in service, as well as post-traumatic stress—and much higher-than-average suicide rates than non-veterans. According to recent VA data, at least 6,000 veterans committed suicide each year between 2008 and 2016—marking a rate that’s 50 percent higher than for the rest of society.

In the VA’s latest move, a key group—known as the Mayor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide Among Service Members, Veterans and their Families—came together to strategize at the end of March. The meeting included teams from seven different towns and cities—including such large metropolises as Kansas City, Mo. and Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, N.C.—as well as experts from the VA and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The teams included military, community and municipal stakeholders.

“The mayor’s challenge provides a roadmap for how communities can contribute to the national effort of preventing Veteran suicide,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie in a press release. “We are pleased to continue our partnership with SAMHSA, so we can provide suicide-prevention training and support to the communities where Veterans live, work and thrive.”

The name comes from the project’s focus, to help local governments and organizations to devise strategies to fight the ongoing crisis that is claiming 16 veterans’ lives every day.

The Mayor’s Challenge has grown to include 24 cities across the country. From its origins nearly two years ago, it has been joined by the VA’s more recent Governor’s Challenge of ten states—as well as a presidential initiative and executive order calling for the wider development of a “comprehensive public health roadmap” to help roll back the high rate of veterans’ suicide. 

Over 600,000—or nearly a full one-third—of the nation’s more than two million federal employees are veterans, according to the Office of Personnel Management.

Call 800-273-8255 and press 1, or send a text message to 838255—or chat online at—if you or someone you know is in crisis or facing thoughts of suicide. 

Reader comments

Fri, Apr 5, 2019

To the last commenter--Regarding PTSD folks often need support from family and friends most. Absolutely true. They can also reach out to helpline and any other resources for assistance. We need more ways to help too. But I agree, supporting families that can support people with PTSD is totally necessary.

Thu, Apr 4, 2019

Please be advised that a person suffering from PTSD, depression or some other diagnosed or undiagnosed mental illness is likely unable to ask for help or “dial a helpline and chat”. The nature of ptsd, depression or other mental illnesses most likely require support from family and/or friends to persuade the vet to get up and go to a med facility/provider for help.

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