A look at VA’s comprehensive outreach approach to suicide prevention  


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Every death by suicide is a tragedy, and we will not relent in our efforts to connect Veterans who are experiencing an emotional or mental health crisis with lifesaving support. That’s why VA has made it a top priority to prevent suicide among the 20 million Veterans nationwide. To ensure that all Veterans, their families and caregivers have access to lifesaving resources and support, VA is continually broadening its outreach efforts to deliver important messages and educate Veterans where they live, work and thrive.

Guided by the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide, VA is using a comprehensive outreach approach across many different communications channels. This approach considers the fact that only about 30 percent of Veterans use VA health care — underscoring the need for innovative ways to connect Veterans and their loved ones to resources and information. Some of VA’s outreach efforts include:

  • Earned media – Working directly with media organizations enables VA to disseminate information about resources and articles on new developments, such as this recent op-ed highlighting our partnership with AMVETS.
  • Events – Hosting tables at resource fairs gives VA an opportunity to connect face-to-face with Veterans who might not directly reach out to VA, providing them valuable information about benefits, employment and resources.
  • Social media – Using social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter gives VA leaders an opportunity to directly connect with the public and respond to their questions through forums such as the #ExploreVA Facebook Live event.
  • Public service announcements (PSAs) – VA has produced and distributed numerous inspiring PSAs that air on television networks nationwide. For example, the recent “Facing the Challenge” PSA highlights the importance of having an open conversation with people in your life who may be going through a difficult time.
  • Paid media – Using a combination of digital advertising and traditional advertising on billboards and in print, VA educates people about the ways they can help the Veterans in their lives through the #BeThere campaign and other suicide prevention resources for supporting Veterans.
  • Partnerships – Relationships with organizations and government agencies that regularly interact with Veteran populations help educate and engage communities and share valuable resources, such as trainings the PsychArmor Institute created in collaboration with the VA.
  • Suicide Prevention Month Campaign – Every September, this annual observance is an invaluable opportunity for VA to collaborate with partner organizations to help people recognize suicide risk factors and encourage everyone to “Be There” for Veterans.

Through this all-embracing approach, VA can equip health care providers, caregivers and Veterans’ family members and friends with the information and materials they need to identify and support Veterans who may be at risk.

“We have an unwavering commitment to our nation’s Veterans, and we’re working diligently to continue increasing our outreach and ensure that anyone who may come in contact with a Veteran at risk has the tools they need to help,” said Dr. Keita Franklin, executive director of suicide prevention for VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.

Although VA is continuously making strides in connecting Veterans with the support they need, this work is far from done. Over the next several years, VA is redoubling its efforts to reach Veterans in rural areas, increasing support for recently transitioned Veterans, and expanding campaigns and partnerships at the state and local levels.

To learn more about the efforts of VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, visit https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention.

The health and well-being of our nation’s Veterans and former service members is VA’s highest priority. Guided by data and research, VA is working with partners, Veterans’ family members and friends, and the community to ensure that Veterans and former service members get the right care whenever they need it. To learn about the resources available for Veterans and how you can #BeThere for a Veteran as a VA employee, family member, friend, community partner or clinician, visit www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/resources.asp.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.


About the author: Wendy Lakso is the acting deputy suicide prevention program director for VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.

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VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

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