Helping to Reduce Veteran Suicide by Connecting Veterans to their Community

U.S. military veterans have made many sacrifices to ensure our safety and freedom. Unfortunately, this often comes at great risk for those serving our country. Many veterans face challenges in transition to civilian life after their military service. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, deaths by suicide are at the highest rate in decades with more than 6,000 veteran suicides each year from 2008–2016. And troubling, the rate of suicide among veterans in 2016 was 1.5 times higher than non-veterans.

Last year the CDC Foundation working with the CDC funded five Veteran-Serving Organizations (VSO) to build capacity to evaluate the effectiveness of their programs in helping to prevent suicide among young veterans. Each of the VSOs’ programs fit within the community-integration or connectedness models of preventing suicide through upstream interventions. The results of the project were instrumental in allowing these VSOs the ability to evaluate their current programs and implement refinements to better serve their Veteran populations.

With additional support this year from CDC, the CDC Foundation was pleased to extend this project into a second year and released a request for proposals. Among responses from 57 VSO applicants, the CDC Foundation selected the following seven VSOs:

  • America’s Warrior Partnership (Augusta, GA)
  • Arizona Coalition for Military Families (Phoenix, AZ)
  • Combined Arms (Houston, TX)
  • Nebraska Association Local Health Directors (Lincoln, NE)
  • Objective Zero (Wilmington, DE)
  • Sword to Plowshares (San Francisco, CA)
  • Volunteers of America Illinois (Chicago, IL)

The seven-month project will help build the capacity of these VSOs to evaluate existing programs aligning with CDC’s upstream approach to suicide prevention as outlined in CDC’s Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policy, Programs and Practices. Lessons learned will then be documented, and quantitative and qualitative findings and ideas will be shared with cross-sector audiences.

We owe a debt of gratitude to every member of our U.S. military for their service and are grateful to the thousands of VSOs across the country actively engaging our Veteran communities in leading fulfilled lives back home.

Rob Abraham
Rob Abraham is the vice president for advancement for the CDC Foundation.