VA, DoD announce 2019 Suicide Prevention Conference

VA and DoD teams will travel to Music City in August 2019


This August 26–29, nearly 2,000 VA and DoD care teams, leaders, allies and subject matter experts from across the country will convene at the 2019 VA/DoD Suicide Prevention Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. Since its inception in 2004, this annual conference has been an important forum for sharing best practices, key research findings and policy updates in the suicide prevention field. It is a crucial extension of the shared VA and DoD mission to prevent suicide among all service members and Veterans.

“We are looking forward to our continued partnership with the DoD at the 2019 VA/DoD Suicide Prevention Conference,” said Dr. Keita Franklin, Executive Director, Suicide Prevention, in VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. “The conference represents a knowledge exchange that will enhance the support we provide to Service members and Veterans.”

This year’s conference theme is “Many Roles. One Mission.,” which emphasizes that everyone has a role to play in preventing suicide among Service members and Veterans. Guided by the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide and the Department of Defense Strategy for Suicide Prevention, attendees of the VA/DoD Suicide Prevention Conference will continue to build on the public health strategies that VA and the DoD apply at the facility, community and state levels.

The conference will enable attendees to: 

  • Better understand the elements of the public health approach to suicide prevention.
  • Define their roles within the public health approach to suicide prevention.
  • Identify opportunities to adopt and improve public health suicide prevention strategies, including prevention, intervention and postvention efforts designed for service members, Veterans and their communities.
  • Develop a custom suicide prevention action plan that leverages local, state, national and international partnerships to optimize surveillance, outreach, intervention and training efforts.
  • Summarize measurable outcomes associated with their suicide prevention action plan.
  • Build cooperative opportunities within and between VA, DoD, and the community.

VA employee participation in the 2019 VA/DoD Suicide Prevention Conference must be approved by supervisors. Employees who have obtained approval to attend the conference will receive a registration invitation with instructions for next steps starting the week of June 10.

To learn more about the efforts of VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, visit

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

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

Wendy Lakso is the acting deputy suicide prevention program director, Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention


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


  1. John Wooley    

    I am project manager for USA Today’s Veteran Affairs Magazine. In the upcoming edition we are raising awareness on Veteran Suicides, treatment and prevention, etc..Send me an email address or call for details. This is distributed (print and digital) though the VA and DoD sytems. COMPLIMENTARY to all recipients.

    Here’s a link to last years edition

    John Wooley
    Advertising Sales Director
    Special Editions Publishing

  2. Lyle Monson Sr    

    VA PHOENIX AZ I concur with many of the statements made by the previous respondents. Spend the money on the sick. Could we not save $ by having tele conferences. Everyone could stay where they live/work and participate by computer or smart phone, etc. My experience has been you have to be your own advocate. When I first came to the VA. I could not walk. My primary care Dr. Sagady disgnosed my problems and sent me to so many clinics. I was fitted with braces and a shoe lift. MHC the physchiatrist and physclogist that worked with me were able to stabalize me through group therapy and medication. My in large my primary care Drs have been excellent. Over the past 20+ years with VA I have received outstanding care ( 3 primary care Drs. Their names 1. Dr Sagady (retired) & 2. Dr Bardwell, 3. Dr Ramish. In the clinics Dr Laman-Dermatology and Dr. Zaza in physical medicine(?)and Dr Pathan in Mental Health. To a large degree these physcians have been outsanding in their service to veterans. I have only mentioned a few of the outstanding VA Drs and staff that strive to a good job for tje Veterans. I beleive to a large degree there are many VETS that do not speak up and be an advocate for themselves. I have been a patient at the Phoenix VA since the 90’s and have had very little problems. What we as Veterans have to realize is that some of our treatmemts take a long time to detect and then schedule due to a lack of skilled Drs. in certain areas. The Choice program was used for me in the areas of optometry eye exam & cataracts; neurology-spinal column release and fusion of my spine. Yes I have had some problems but the good far outweighs them.

  3. Val Johnson    

    I am a Licenseed Clinical Social Worker working with clients in the probation and parole sector in Utah. I am also a 90% disabled, Purple Heart veteran. Can I get more information on attending this conference? do you have scholarships available. How can I help veterans in southern Utah?

  4. Stacey Pointer    

    Can civilians attend this conference? I’m an exwife of a disabled army veteran who still advocates for him thru his PTSD struggles. I would love to go to this!

  5. C Harrison    

    From my dealing with the VA over a mental health issue, this is a joke. I went to see a doctor for a separate issue and he noted I have mild depression. I have now been refereed to several doctors and all of them have agreed, but do nothing. They want to start medication, but they have to go through my primary care doctor, who is ignoring me and by requests for help. In the past year that I have been working to get help the depression has gotten worse. I went to the walk-in mental health department at my local VA clinic, as suggested by one of my mental health doctors. There they just told me I needed to go see my primary care doctor. In other words, right back to where I started. Mine is a simple problem, but no one at the VA is taking this seriously. How can you expect people who don’t really care to help people with more serious life and death issues? If the VA won’t or is incapable of handling this problem, get these people to outside doctors who have the experience to deal with it. Not tomorrow or after you talk about it for another year or two. This has to happen YESTERDAY!

    1. James O'REILLY    

      Talk about hitting the nail on the head..101per cent.

  6. Jennifer Bauerle    

    Hello. Please send me the information needed and where to register. My supervisor has asked me who they need to contact. Thanks in advance.

  7. Paula Nobles    

    I’m a retired LTC Army Social Worker. A tour 15 months in Iraq. I served in a mental health capacity. Suicide prevention was among one of my many duties. I came home lost 6 very close family members. Including my mother,father, husband two uncles. My one and only Son was active full time guard. Committed suicide. I never saw it coming. I told the chaplains who did my sons military funeral. I never thought I’d be on this end of being a parent of a soldier who committed suicide. That’s what I did in the Army. I’ve certainly had my issues of gone through so much death and destruction. Depression and PTSD.
    If they’re any scholarships I’d love to be invited to the conference. I have a great interest in preventing suicide from a mother of a Solider perspective. As well as clinical aspect.

    LTC Paula Nobles
    US Army Retired
    MSC, Social Worker.
    Personal Email:

  8. Robert Drolet    

    Why aren’t you inviting SAVE A WARRIOR? They won the VA BrainTrust: Pathways to InnoVAtion event at Harvard in 2017 and they’re making a huge impact in decreasing veteran suicides. This sounds a lot like a rebranding conference rather than one of best practices.

    1. greg    

      I’ve learned my lesson about telling the VA about any problems, don’t do it, you will regret it. they treat people like shit, all the time and I’m tired of the poor treatment. I understand why veterans kill themselves at the VA, Obviously the VA doesn’t.

  9. Robert L. Beckman    

    Attacking the Suicide Epidemic/TBI/PTSD/PCS/Concussion using Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: The essential elements of the argument. [much more at: ]

    DOD/VA/Military Services are experiencing epidemics of suicide; traumatic brain injuries; incidents of post-traumatic stress disorder; and deaths through substance overdose. Peer-reviewed evidence of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy’s (HBOT) safety and effectiveness urge adoption for immediate use to reverse the trends. HBOT has been proved worldwide to be safe and effective at nearly eliminating suicidal ideation and allowing brain-wounded patients to withdraw from pain and use of drugs during treatment. Neither the DOD nor the VA nor the military services have been effective in healing the wounds of brain-injured active duty and veteran service members, despite billions of dollars of research and drug-dependency. Service member suicides are increasing:
    • U.S. Special Operations suicides tripled in 2018.
    • Marine suicides reached the highest level in a decade despite the end of Large-Scale Combat Operations.
    • More than 50,000 Iraq and Afghanistan Army veterans who developed mental health conditions during their military service received other-than-honorable discharges, making them ineligible for health benefits.
    • The Veterans Administration is reported to have spent less than 10% of the monies allocated for Suicide Prevention marketing campaigns.
    • VA doctors with responsibility for brain injuries have quietly started prescribing HBOT for TBI and PTSD. There are over a dozen instances of VA facilities paying for those treatments. DOD physicians are similarly prescribing HBOT for TBI and several DOD facilities are already successfully treating TBI and PTSD using HBOT.
    • The VA has started a Pilot Demonstration to observe the use of HBOT for treating and helping heal brain wounds. The program is expanding, based on near total success with those patients already treated. Yet DoD/VA/Army medicine are not prepared to immediately intervene with the 800,000 brain wounded using rules for addressing epidemics; those rules have been invoked many times in the last decade for pandemics like Ebola and Zika. Based on evidence and success with over 6,100 successfully-treated brain injured, the private sector has the infrastructure to begin immediately treating 10,000 brain-wounded veterans, and can produce evidence of success within sixty days of beginning treatment. Unused appropriated funds are available in the Suicide Prevention Program. Additional available funds exist via budget-neutral movement of funds from the VA drug budget since patients who successfully complete HBOT treatment are known to quit using most of the prescribed drugs that do not heal the wound to the brain.

  10. Anthony Natoli    

    This announcement is a shame on so many levels.

    I just shared with the Acting Chief of Staff for the Greater Los Angeles Healthcare system that I have been fighting cancer (Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma) since 1984. In ’85 I participated in the VA’s Agent Orange Study that service connected A/O with 6 categories of diseases and maladies. In ’91 I was “Service Connected” at 100% but continued to use my outside facilities for treatment… as I was supposed to have succumbed to this disease within 6 years.

    For over 30 years I used the finest civilian facilities in this area, and possibly the nation or the world. They included a former Chief of Oncology at the VA now in private practice, Tarzana and Encino Medical Centers, USC, UCLA, labs at Bethesda Maryland Naval Hospital, and Northridge Hospital. I also utilized several different labs and imaging types and centers in the San Fernando Valley and the LA area.

    I was fortunate to have the best the private practices had to offer and because of that and God’s Grace… I’m typing this response today. Travel back and forth to these facilities was always at about 1 hour and a minimum of 30 miles one way and the visits usually consumed half a day over all.

    Saying all this, I concluded with… SInce 2001 when I relapsed, te VA has cared for my compensation, medical, psychological needs and has done it in a rather expeditious manner. In 2012 my temporary 100% Disability status was reviewed, some changes were made and upgrades addressed so that I was now “homebound” and receiving more care and compensation.

    This was all accomplished within 5 months which included an appeal and a second claim filed for 11 other conditions.

    My care continues to be timely, accurate and probably equal or better than the private sector and much more convenient to me with either less travel, or travel services provided for me.

    I’m not special, I do not have any political influences, and I only settle for the BEST. I hear many of these horror stories and I have several other Vets that will agree with everything I have written here as well.

    With the new MISSION program and CBOCs opening, accelerated hiring and increased staffing, I do see a better future as the VA does some re-engineering to better meet the needs of today’s Veterans. I am also sure there will be some bumps along the way… but the attitudes I have seen many times from those in charge lend toward a passion to make things work, and make them work better.

    Lastly, conventions and conferences can be a great resource in sharing ideas and gaining commitments and help… I just wonder why they seem to always be held at some resort like Las Vegas or Music City… It gives the appearance there will be an ample amount of “play time” as well… and this kind of undermines this very serious subject. Many of the negative comments and feelings posted above could have been avoided if it were held at let us say, a military facility with the Topics, Agenda and Goals announced as well.

    Thank you for listening,

    Tony Natoli

  11. Anthony W. McCann Sr.    

    As a Veteran of the 9 + years USMC. And, A Veteran of the V.A. system for thirty years I know this is horse manure. I have had two veterans who were friend who committed suicide, not from combat related issues but from anxiety over fighting the V.A.. I myself committed suicide several years ago over fighting the V.A. unfortunately I was revived. I say unfortunately because now I have thirty years of fighting the V.A. System. This is my third time writing this and my last time. I believe it’s because I named names in my prior remarks. And the government doesn’t like you to name names. But, I have contacted every congressman and senator by mail and phone several times over the years and yes I mean everyone, from Alaska, Hawaii, California and Main. Several Presidents and Vice Presidents, V.A. Director’s, Secretaries, and hospital directors. Just recently I contacted all my state and U.S. representatives, congressmen and senators. To no avail. In face most of them lied to each other and said they or their representatives spoke with me and said I was completely satisfied with my outcome. A bald face LIE. This conference is nothing but a paid vacation for government officials. You notice their is no public comment forum. No time for Veterans to express their grievances. This is a scam perpetuated by the government at Veterans expense.

    1. Shanda Garth    

      Mr McCann: I am so grateful your attempts at suicide were unsuccessful. Your comments are genuine & I’m appreciative of your fight with VA because your efforts do make it less challenging for those of us coming behind you. You are being heard & your words will eventually reach someone who is in a position to assist you & all others. Thank you for continuing the fight on behalf of yourself & many others.

      1. Michelle Williams    

        Mr. McCann

        I share your pain I too tried to kill myself on a few occasions even though I knew I didn’t want to die. I just didn’t want to wake up. I am saddened that a friend of mine succeeded in taking his life in December due to no help. I believe that at this convention the VA needs to bring in some survivors of mental health. I have been receiving care for the last couple years from the VA and I don’t think about not waking up everyday. I am not going to say that I am cured but I am getting help in a positive direction.

    2. Val McLeod    

      Peace and strength to you Mr. McCann. Thank you for your sacrifice and {continued} service beyond retirement. Adding your voice to this critically important issue is absolutely invaluable. “No problem can be saved form the same level of consciousness that created it.” – Albert Einstein #VetsLivesMatterNow #MarchForOurVets2020 #ValULifeMore #iValU

  12. Ted Johnson    

    Is this conference for just VA and DoD? Can Veterans attend to provide their perspective? I’m a Veteran who would like to bring some real world off the street ideas to this conference.

  13. David Preston    

    It is disheartening to read the posts from those who want to be of assistance interspersed with those by veterans and their family who feel let down and abandoned by the system. Having been on both ends of the spectrum – first, as a struggling Gulf War veteran and today as a Master of Military Social Work student, I can see both sides and pray we can find a way to bridge the gap and create connections between those who need the resources and those who have the resources. I applaud the veterans and family who are stepping up and sharing their stories here and in other forums: now we need to figure out how to step up and solve this epidemic.

    1. Jake Clark    

      Give ‘em hell, Amber

  14. Barbara Quilliam West    

    How does a veteran get an invitation to this?

    1. Tina K Mills    

      I am also a veteran and a licensed clinical drug and alcohol counselor. I’d love to go to this too! Are there scholarships to assist with payment/hotels? I also work with veterans and others in the Justice System, and I’d love to gain more knowledge and resources to help those in need.

      1. Will Timeloser    

        I had to get my service dog myself, will change your life, she’s amazing and would not believe what and how much she does. 2 bad hips, knees and to keep short. First have a hip, knee and an ankle that pop out causes me to fall and would need to update this site’s hard drives to handle. I was very lucky, I found her online. She only trained dogs for people with spinal problems. She told me could come up and watch her anytime want and between paying attention and and the internet it’s still boggles my mind how much she does. Most people know that most dogs hate being picked up. I bought an expensive harness that has multiple locations to hook on enabling to control through them. So hooking on the harness at her center point and start to fall, I can pull on the leash, she will immediately put her into a stance trying to keep from picking up and she becomes the anchor point allowing me to pull up. She also pulls a little bit on leash when walking to assist keeping my legs moving so use less energy to walk being assisted. She knows exactly when in bed, find the spot where the pain is doing 2 things. First she will sit close enough to place herself on the spot and applying pressure which reducing pain. She then will put her belly on my back my spine acting as a heating pad or doing the same curling up at the small of my back and making her a emotional support dog too. She will help other ways being that anchor going up hills on street and will pull harder and the same with stairs, she will go to the top allowing me to use the leash to pull myself up. Since so many use a cane hunching over causes more problems, since she doesn’t allow me to fall and pulling myself to help walk it allows me to stand up straight and the correct posture, she doesn’t just help, she allows me to feel better and gives confidence. I understand the cost involved can be very expensive the VA say not enough proof to support service animals help, they won’t cover the cost of having. This costs to train for your special needs can be 20k+, if allowed they would be overwhelmed with so many wanting, then costs with adding more staff, shelter and safety would demolish budgets causing other programs already short that would cause cuts that would take away programs other vets need. Adding this would cause a lot more problems than could people realize, it’s no question could never afford or responsible. My girl does so much I believe should be given to anyone who has problems like mine to look into because how much it benefits quality of life.

  15. matt carlisle    

    Are you paying for airfare, hotel etc to come be at conference?

  16. Randolph Smith    

    I’m a US Army veteran paratrooper with a broken back, I just lived through the toughest year of my life and if you want to help veterans, you need to get us the care without the administrative “Bullsh*t and Delays” I live in pain and can get no footing on getting a life without it due to delays, incompetence and mishandling
    Clean this sh*t up
    Randy Smith, North Creek N.Y.

  17. Chuck Haigerty    

    Do I need to reregister for the 2019 suicide prevention conference

  18. Dale Cooper    

    Why does the VA wait until someone is at the point of being suicidal or at the point of wanting to harm someone else, before they help them? Why can’t they help us before we are that far into a bad situation?

    1. Mary Thomas    

      I don’t agree, I recieved and continue to as soon as I asked.

  19. Frederick Black    

    This is a beautiful thing you guys are doing for Vets.

    1. Patricia Farrington    

      You are lucky. Not everyone is receiving the services they need and they are speaking out here. Whether you agree or disagree is not the issue. People are speaking from their own experience and the lack of consistency across the board within the VA system is part of the problem and the other part of the problem is that privatization of the system stands in the way of getting services to all veterans. If the VA were properly staffed, there would be no need for MISSION or private outside agencies to take over!

  20. Raymond G Stephens    

    This article spells out one of the biggest barriers to this issue. All of these experts trying to come up with clever slogans and ways to re-brand the same thing. If you want real input that will make a change hopefully you will consider inviting and solicit input from people who have attempted to end their life, from people who actually are the one closest to the individual who have to deal with the now and later of these events to include friends and family who are the ones who can also provide real insight into all aspects of this issue. Until these inputs and heard and acted upon this issue will never change.

  21. PhD. White Buffalo Eagle Bear Hawk Wolf    

    Merry meet! How is everyone doing? Question do you guy’s know all the different reasons why many of us veterans commit suicide let if it’s even truthfully possible to achieve what you guy’s think you’re going to achieve? Many of us veterans going back to WWI up to desert storm and shield and even up to now aren’t just committing suicide because of PTSD or other military related health issues.
    Some of them commit suicide because the VA and the VA hospital not doing the responsible things and help all of us whether we have all our credentials or not. Also the VA is supposed to be helping all veterans not just pick and choosing who the wish to help and who not. Prime example gunny Sgt Steven Mathews from desert storm who committed suicide in 1999 it was not because of PTSD it was because of failure on the VA hospital and VA staffing in getting the man the treatment required all because he didn’t have his credentials on hand and wasn’t in your guy’s syatem as a retired or honorable discharge personal.
    Also I know my records themselves haven’t been released to me since my request and this also causes suicide for many of us homeless veterans. I’m not the only homeless veteran that’s having issues with the VA and VA hospital in regards to getting help with documents or treatment there’s over a couple hundred homeless veterans throughout the U.S. that have similar issues like mine and are suicidal none the less. It’s bad enough we have the memory issues from the war’s and battles we have been in we don’t need all this other bull crap.
    The VA and DoD both need to look more deeply into this before thinking that it’s going to be simple or easy and not realize there’s more to why us veterans commit suicide than what you all think. I’ve been retired from the US military since December 01st, 2002 yet served since May 05th, 1958. I’ve witnessed many events in my 74 year 7 months and 11 days and have learned that we all have issues not just us veterans yet even other government officials and none government officials like police officers medical staff as well as firemen and civilian.

  22. Alan Wells    

    The conference was incepted in 2004, and it is now 2019, so 15 years have gone by. Have you caused suicide rates to go down? The veterans who have committed suicide aren’t around anymore to give you feedback, so you aren’t going to hear from them. Obviously, the veterans who committed suicide didn’t feel that the VA could help them, or those veterans probably wouldn’t have killed themselves. The money being spent on suicide prevention gives some people a paycheck, but how effective are you really? The government and the VA is spending money on the issue, which means that some doctors and health care workers, and hotline people are getting a paycheck, but to what degree are you really helping to prevent suicide? I don’t think that all the veterans who have killed themselves would say that you have been very effective. But they can’t speak anymore can they? So I’m going to say what I think they would say. You might have some success stories, and make statements like, “If we can just save one person then it’s worth it.” But that is little consolation to someone who is trying to decide whether the VA can really help them, or if they should just quietly go and kill themselves. If the perception is, that the VA might do nothing for them, or actually make their life worse, then they aren’t going to seek help. I don’t want to discourage the people involved in the effort to prevent suicide, but I sincerely feel that the health care system isn’t willing to face the harsh reality of what I’m stating here. And unless you face this reality, then suicide prevention effectiveness isn’t going to improve. If enough veterans kill themselves, then the suicide rates may eventually go down because there won’t be anymore suicidal veterans left. Sorry to be so cynical, but I think that a suicidal veteran would respect my willingness to openly state what they may feel. I think that a good starting point is to be able to express how a suicidal person might feel, so that they know that someone understands them.

  23. Stephen Cline    

    I think I can safely say the VA Health Care System is a major factor in Veteran suicides. At the very least don’t care anymore. With all the propaganda coming out of the VA about how much the Healthcare care system has improved in recent years. I have seen the exact opposite. That new program that President Trump is so proud of, I’d bet you veterans had zero input but the VO’s had more than their say. In 20 years All I’ve gotten is excuses platitudes and CYOA from the VA Faculty I’ve had the unfortunate displeasure of have no choice but to use. Each year has been worse than the one before. Oh, and your Mental healthcare has a lot to be desired. In the few years that I used the system I never saw the same Psychiatrist twice. Exactly what a suicidal Veteran wants to do is start over week after week, month after month, year after year. Not what I would call a healthy outlook on life. I have become so disgusted with the VAMC that when I go to bed at night my hope is that I do not wake up again. After my last attempt I made a promise that the VA have made extremely hard to keep not to attempt it again.

  24. Alfredo H Santano    

    I truly believe the VA/DOD SUICIDE PREVENTION should talk about 4 to 5 years ago what the Federal Government did to all of the veterans that were taking opioids to help them live with the pains that never end a decision was made to remove all the TBI and PTSD Veterans suffering and the statement was said that unless we are dying or have cancer we aren’t going to be given the medication but all the Veterans that are static and every year our Disabilities continue to worsen when will anyone speak for us and give us the medical assistance that is given to the rest of the country that is approved for every other state except those many of us whom fought for our countries freedom and now that we need medical care aren’t treated the same as everyone else in the country cause we have to wait for federal approval or to be honest maybe there waiting for more Veterans to die before they start helping all of us. To all my Veteran brothers who are living in pain that never ends!

  25. Sharon Lynn    

    Does anyone from the VA even read these comments?
    My fiancé had a dirty urine from a pill that is prescribed to him by the VA. He is on a program and they kicked him off, just like that and now he is withdrawing and dealing with all the pain in his body with zero help. He has done so much better on the program for years. They don’t care if he kills himself, they don’t care about the veterans. I love him and I don’t want to see him in this desperate state of depression. This is how you treat your soldiers, that is just not fair to them.

  26. Miles Anderson    

    The saddest thing is since this conference inception in 2004 this problem has gotten worse not better. A time for a new approach ….

    Save the 22 a day

    Spend the money on the sick not on the salaries and the hotels….

Comments are closed.