While Suicide Prevention Awareness Month draws to a close, the operational tempo for prevention continues at rapid pace.
In 2020, Maryland kicked off the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration/US Department of Veterans Affairs Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Service Member, Veteran and Family (SMVF) Suicide. The goal of the Governor’s Challenge is to prevent service member and veteran suicide by using a public health approach to suicide prevention that utilizes a combination of community-based prevention strategies and evidence-based clinical interventions to empower communities and individuals to take action. The Challenges bring cities, communities, and states together to form inter-agency teams dedicated to increasing suicide prevention resources for veterans in their communities.
Maryland is proud to have been chosen as one of the Governor’s Challenge teams. Leaders of the team are the Maryland Department of Health/Behavioral Health Administration/Maryland’s Commitment to Veterans and the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs. Through partnerships with the US Department of Veterans Affairs, University of Maryland, Prince George’s County Veterans Commission, Holy Cross Hospital, numerous state agencies, as well as others, we have had tremendous success creating action plans to support service members, veterans, and their families.
The action plan focuses on four key priority areas: identification of SMVF and screening for risk, building connections and transition coordination, lethal means safety, and peer support. The action plan presented to the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will help inform the Maryland-based Comprehensive Veterans Suicide Prevention Plan required by Maryland SB521.
“Each and every life taken by suicide is a devastating loss for our state, and this tragedy strikes far too often among Maryland’s community of military service members, veterans, and their family members,” said Governor Hogan. “If you or someone you know may be at risk, I urge you to speak up, reach out, and know that you are not alone.”
Talking about mental health and suicide at community, state, and national levels can be difficult, but it is invaluable. Practicing lethal means safety, recognizing warning signs of suicide in peers and community members, and learning how to practice safe messaging are all community level actions that can save lives.
There is no single solution to suicide, and the connection and support we receive in our community matters.
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 988 and Press 1, text to 988 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.
For more information on federal and state level initiatives/groups addressing prevention please visit:
Dana Burl, Outreach Program Director
MD Department of Veterans Affairs
Source: US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Governor’s Challenge Communications Toolkit