Looking for Potential Solutions to Combat Veteran Suicide

Serving in the U.S. military is a noble path that many pursue. Military veterans, however, can experience challenges transitioning back into civilian life. A tragic indicator of these difficulties is a suicide rate for veterans that is 1.5 times greater than for Americans who did not serve in the military.

While the overall suicide rate for all veterans has gone down slightly in recent years, the suicide rate among young veterans (those 18–34 years old) has increased dramatically, based on the latest Department of Veterans Affairs statistics examining data from 2016. To help address the challenge of veterans’ suicide, the CDC Foundation, with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is working on a project with veteran-serving, community-based organizations to build capacity to help prevent suicide among young veterans.

Through this CDC Foundation project, five community-based organizations were recently awarded grants through a competitive process. These organizations will develop and implement evaluation plans targeted at assessing the effectiveness of one or more of their existing programs in reducing rates of suicide and suicidal ideation among veterans. Their evaluation strategies will be based on CDC's Evaluation Framework for programs utilizing the Community Integration Model or Connectedness Model.

The five organizations selected for this project are:

  • America’s Warrior Partnership (Augusta, GA)
  • The Mission Continues (St. Louis, MO)
  • Stack Up (Sylmar, CA)
  • Arizona Coalition for Military Families (Phoenix, AZ)
  • The Warrior Alliance (Atlanta, GA)

Importantly, the 10-month project will evaluate existing programs that appear to be aligned 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.

Veterans’ suicide is a complex issue, and there are no quick solutions. But having a better understanding of programs that show promise can make crucial contributions to helping those who have already given so much to our country.

Rob Abraham
Rob Abraham is the vice president for advancement for the CDC Foundation.
Trish Miller
Trish Miller, MPH, is a senior program officer for the CDC Foundation.