Reducing the incidents of veteran suicide is a top priority for the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) and we actively work with and support community partners to connect veterans in crisis to the best possible resources to help them live a safe, healthy, quality life.
Every year thousands of service members transition from serving in the military to beginning their lives as veterans in the civilian world. Though many transition successfully, for some that transition is not always a seamless process, often leading to social issues such as addiction, unemployment, homelessness and more.
Unfortunately, for some veterans, these challenges can lead to a host of behavioral and mental health challenges that can include suicide. In fact, approximately, 20 veterans die by suicide each day and veterans are 1.5 times more likely to die by suicide than those who never served in the military. The risk factor for female veterans is even higher at 2.2 times.
It is important for everyone to know that if you are a veteran in crisis — or you are concerned about one — free, confidential support is available 24/7. Call the Veterans Crisis Line at 988, then Press 1.
The DMVA is working every day with community partners and every resource available to reduce the incidents of veteran suicide. Below are a few examples of how DMVA makes suicide prevention a top priority:
PA VETConnect Helps Connect Veterans to Important Resources
The DMVA works to identify and serve veterans in need through PA VETConnect, a new and innovative program that connects veterans to the best possible resources for assistance, anywhere in the commonwealth. The DMVA field staff networks in all 67 Pennsylvania counties and are well-versed in the social challenges veterans face.
Governor’s Challenge Focuses on Veteran Suicide
The DMVA is proud to be Pennsylvania’s lead agency for the VA/SAMHSA Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide Among Service Members, Veterans and Their Families. Pennsylvania is one of 27 states taking part in the Governor’s Challenge. Participants work to implement state-wide suicide prevention best practices and learn from stakeholders nationwide. Through this program, DMVA spearheads efforts, such as gun safety, eliminating barriers to treatment, and raising awareness of available local, statewide and federal resources.
Together With Veterans (TWV) Reaches Deep into Communities
As a by-product of the Governor’s Challenge initiatives, the DMVA is also partnering with counties across the commonwealth on an initiative to reduce veteran suicide with a focus on rural communities. The collaborative includes the Together With Veterans model, which requires an action plan to address veteran suicide prevention. Together With Veterans is a national program funded by the federal VA’s Office of Rural Health in partnership with the Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. The key elements of the plan include screening for suicide risk; promoting connectedness and improving care transitions; and reducing access to lethal suicide methods and enhancing safety planning.
NorthWest Pennsylvania Comprehensive Suicide Prevention Program
DMVA is partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Veteran Integrates Service Network (VISN 4), Veteran Integrates Service Network (VISN 4), Pittsburgh Universities Program, Evaluation and Research Unit (Pitt PERU) and a host of community partners to implement and evaluate a comprehensive approach to reduce veteran suicide by an average of 10% over a five-year period across 15 counties in Northwest Pennsylvania. Those counties are Erie, Warren, McKean, Crawford, Forest, Elk, Clearfield, Jefferson, Armstrong, Clarion, Butler Venango, Mercer, Lawrence and Beaver. This program is expected to reduce suicide and to increase awareness of veteran suicide risk factors, increase suicide prevention activities and improve access to mental health treatment and support services.
Veterans’ Trust Fund Grants Boost Programs that Support Veterans in Need
The DMVA provides grants to various community organizations through the Veterans' Trust Fund (VTF). These grants are awarded to veteran advocates, such as charitable organizations and county directors of veteran’s affairs, whose area of emphasis is supporting Pennsylvania’s diverse veteran population. This includes veterans who are homeless, unemployed, dealing with mental health challenges, facing financial hardship, looking for educational opportunities, and much more.
Other Multi-Agency Suicide Prevention Efforts Supported by DMVA:
- The Suicide Prevention Task Force is made up of several state agencies, members of the General Assembly, and Prevent Suicide PA who continue to engage members of the public, stakeholders, county task forces, individuals, and families who are impacted by suicide every year.
- The Governor’s Special Council on Gun Violence, led by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, includes representatives from public health, public safety, law enforcement, victim services, education, human services, criminal and juvenile justice, research institutions, and state/local government.
The DMVA encourages veteran advocates to reach out to veterans they know with a Caring Message. A Caring Message is simple to send and can take the form of a letter, text, email, phone call, or any communication. A Caring Message could be as simple as: ‘It was great to see you today. I am looking forward to our next visit.' Simply reminding a veteran that they matter, especially one who might be in crisis, can be lifesaving.