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Ask The Question Campaign

Maryland Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide
among Military Service Members, Veterans, and Families
Ask the Question Campaign

This year the Hogan-Rutherford Administration accepted an invitation from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to participate in the Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide among Service Members, Veterans, and Families (SMVF).  The Challenge is a call to action to collaborate, plan, and implement suicide prevention SMVF best practices and policies. The Department of Health (MDH) and Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA) are leading a team of more than 30 federal, state, and local partners to develop the plan.

The National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide 2018-2028 provides Governor’s Challenge Teams a framework for identifying priorities.    The strategic priorities work together to promote wellness, increase protection, reduce risk and promote effective treatment and recovery.   The three best policy and practice priorities include: identify SMVF and screen for suicide risk, promote connectedness and improve care transitions, and increase lethal means safety and safety planning.  In order to align the SAMHSA action plan to Senate Bill 521 (Comprehensive Statewide Veterans Suicide Prevention Plan) Maryland added one additional priority: peer support.

Maryland is home to approximately 350,000 veterans, 30,000 active duty service members and 18,000 reservists/national guard members.  In addition, there are 130,000 veteran households with children and another 60,000 reserve/national guard/active duty dependents.  

According to the MDVA 2019 Annual Report, only about 40% of Maryland veterans are enrolled in the VA healthcare system. The Maryland veteran suicide rate is 17% and hovers almost 4% higher than the total rate of 13% (per 100,000 population).  Of the veterans lost nationally to suicide, an average of 40% were not enrolled in VA healthcare.  RAND studies indicate that many providers do not know whether their clients have served and also do not have high military cultural competency. 

Not feeling understood is one of the key barriers to SMVF not seeking civilian services.  Asking people the question, “Have you or a loved one ever served in the military?” starts the conversation, training providers on military cultural competency promotes understanding, and educating providers on military/veteran resources builds connections.  

Maryland’s Ask the Question Campaign: Have you or a loved one ever served in the military?

The “Ask the Question” Campaign is one suicide prevention strategy which encourages human services professionals, state and local government, and community providers to ask consumers whether they or a loved one have served in the military.  Asking this question promotes the opportunity to educate and connect more people to valuable military/veteran related programs, thereby improving overall well-being of our service members, veterans and families.

Human services professionals are encouraged to complete training on military cultural competency and to learn about military/veteran related benefits and programs.  Many training opportunities are available at no cost and can be completed online.

Learn more about training and resources on military cultural competency here.

Ask the Question Campaign infographic and resources.  Available for downloading and sharing.

Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs quick reference guide with resources.

For questions contact Joy Ashcraft, Director, Maryland’s Commitment to Veterans, MDH-BHA, Lead Governor’s Challenge Team,, or Dana Burl , MDVA Outreach Program Director, Co-Lead Governor’s Challenge Team,

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