Continuing the Work to Prevent Veteran Suicide

Suicide is a growing public health crisis and a leading cause of death in the United States, with rates increasing 35 percent between 1999–2018. Veterans are a particularly vulnerable population, with the suicide rate among veterans 1.5 times higher than non-veterans in 2018. The COVID-19 pandemic also seems to be making matters more challenging as military suicides have increased by as much as 20 percent during the pandemic according to the Department of Defense.

Mental health conditions are often seen as the cause of suicide, but suicide is rarely caused by any single factor. In fact, many people who die by suicide are not known to have a diagnosed mental health condition at the time of death. Other social problems often contribute to suicide, such as those related to relationships, substance use, physical health, and job, money, legal or housing stress.

The good news is that suicide prevention is possible, and veteran serving organizations (VSOs) play a vital role in the upstream, public health approach to decreasing suicide among veterans. VSOs need to be better equipped to support veterans and their families. For the past two years, the CDC Foundation has been working in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control to help address the challenge of veteran suicide by building the capacity of veteran serving organizations to evaluate the effectiveness of their programs in helping to prevent suicide among veterans.

The goal of the project is to help VSO grantees build and implement evaluative knowledge and skills and use evaluations as a performance improvement tool based on CDC's Evaluation Framework, resources and focused technical assistance. The project provided evaluation findings from its first two groups of organizations this past fall.

With additional support this year from CDC, the CDC Foundation is pleased to extend this project into a third year and released a request for proposals. The competitive grant program provides funds to support veteran serving organizations; improving their ability to monitor and document success and areas for growth, and to build successful partnerships for long-term sustainability. Today, we are pleased to announce the selection of the following VSOs who were selected to participate in the project for the upcoming year:

  • Forces United
  • Nebraska Association of Local Health Directors
  • Objective Zero Foundation
  • Project Sanctuary
  • The Warrior Alliance
  • Vantage Point Foundation
  • Vets’ Community Connection

We are grateful for the additional support to continue this important work into 2021 and help protect our veterans who have done so much for our country.

This article was supported by Cooperative Agreement number 5 NU38OT000288-03-00, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of CDC or the Department of Health and Human Services. The CDC Foundation’s support from CDC included full project funding of $300,000.

Lola Oguntomilade
Lola Oguntomilade, MPH, is a senior program officer for the CDC Foundation.