Suicide Prevention Awareness Month at VBA


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VBA may not always be the first place you think of when talking about suicide prevention, but there is a lot going on there.

In December 2019, VBA launched VA Solid Start. This landmark program fundamentally changed the way VBA communicates with Veterans. VBA calls Veterans three times during their first year after separation. These calls aren’t prewritten sales pitches, they are one-on-one conversations driven by the Veteran. While Solid Start agents do take the opportunity to remind Veterans about time- sensitive benefits and services so they won’t miss out, the rest of the call is all about the Veteran’s needs. Additionally, the Solid Start program can provide critical and timely information to support a successful transition to civilian life. For example, Solid Start was able to quickly add and update resource information to reflect changes due to COVID.

You may wonder what this has to do with suicide prevention. The answer is everything!

Suicide prevention is not only about individual clinical interventions. Prevention efforts start much earlier by addressing and mitigating risk factors that may contribute to thoughts of suicide. These risk factors can include stress from unemployment, housing insecurity, and difficulties related to illness and injury. VBA provides support for all of these through programs like Veterans Readiness & Employment, the GI Bill, Personal Career Planning and Guidance, and VA Home Loan Guaranty and foreclosure avoidance.

Suicide prevention is about promoting knowledge of and access to benefits and services as early as possible, and this is where VBA excels.

Research has shown that the first year after separation from service is the most stressful for Veterans and carries with it a higher risk of suicide. Solid Start focuses specifically on this time frame, but VBA didn’t stop there. Last year, VA and DoD created the Military to Civilian Readiness (M2C Ready) framework. M2C Ready established the transition period as beginning one year prior to separation through one year post separation. Solid Start is a product of M2C Ready and VBA expects more to come.

VBA is dedicated to supporting Secretary Wilke’s priority of Suicide Prevention. VBA collaborates closely with VHA’s Office of Suicide Prevention on Solid Start, M2C Ready and VA-wide suicide prevention initiatives. In addition, VBA recently created the position of Suicide Prevention Officer. VBA’s Suicide Prevention Officer will help leverage all VBA suicide prevention assets and increase VBA’s presence and participation in VA-wide suicide prevention initiatives.

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 VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat

Author

Margarita Devlin

Margarita Devlin is the principal deputy under secretary for VA’s Veterans Benefits Administration.