Project Helping To Reduce Veteran Suicide Provides Evaluation Findings

Suicide is a large and growing public health problem in the United States. Overall, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—with responsibility for more than 48,000 deaths in 2018. Tragically, the rate of death by suicide for veterans is 1.5 times greater than for those who have not served in the military, particularly among young veterans aged 18–35. September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and I want to share with you an effort the CDC Foundation is working on with other partners to help address veteran’s suicide.

Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are rarely caused by any single factor, which means there are multiple pathways for prevention. To help address the challenge of veterans’ suicide, the CDC Foundation is working in collaboration with CDC on a project to build evaluation capacity among veteran-serving organizations (VSOs) implementing programs that support an upstream public health approach to suicide prevention among U.S. military veterans.

This collaboration just completed its second year of work. During this second year, seven VSOs were awarded grants to develop and implement an evaluation plan and build their capacity for ongoing program evaluation. The goal of the project was 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. 

In support of this effort, a two-part virtual meeting was also held in June with an aim to increase understanding of the work and experiences of project grantee VSOs and integrate evaluation into suicide prevention efforts. Additionally, the meetings sought to facilitate networking, knowledge transfer and strategic partnership building between the VSOs and a variety of suicide prevention stakeholders.

After an evaluation of the second year of this project, we are pleased to share this work was able to:

  • Establish greater credibility with key federal agency partners such as the Department of Defense through evaluation work with CDC;
  • Streamline internal processes and increase collaboration with key stakeholders within CDC through the evaluation knowledge and skills from this project;
  • Prepare some of the VSOs to adapt quickly to pressing needs during the COVID-19 pandemic through sustained use of these evaluation skills; and
  • Provide greater collaboration between public and private sector groups, making this work possible in the veteran suicide prevention space.

The CDC Foundation now has a request for proposal available on its website where organizations can submit a proposal to be considered for funding.

As we enter the third year of this project, it is our hope these efforts provide a variety of resources to help address the urgent American public health issue of veteran’s suicide and help our veterans who have sacrificed so much for our country.

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