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NASW Helps Launch National Veterans Suicide Prevention Initiative

Washington, D.C. – The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is pleased to announce the Trump administration on June 18 issued its “road map” for preventing suicide among veterans. NASW provided input on this road map that was mandated by an executive order signed into law in March 2019 and is part of the $53 million President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End the National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS) initiative.

Veterans have a suicide rate that is 1.5 times higher than that of civilian adults. Overall, the number of deaths by suicide in the United States have risen 35 percent since 1999, and suicide is now the second leading cause of death for people aged 10 to 34 and fourth for those aged 35 to 54.

The road map calls for 10 recommendations to help end this crisis:

  1. Create and implement a national public health campaign focused on suicide prevention for veterans and all Americans.
  2. Identify and prioritize suicide surveillance and research that focuses on a veteran's unique combination of individual, relationship, community, and societal factors to deliver the most effective intervention(s) tailored to meet their needs and circumstances.
  3. Promote foundational changes to the way research is conducted — including improving the speed and accuracy with which research is translated into practice, improving efficiency through data sharing and data curation practices, and using innovative funding techniques to drive team science and reproducibility.
  4. Develop effective partnerships across government agencies and nongovernment entities and organizations to increase capacity and impact of programs and research to empower veterans and prevent suicide.
  5. Encourage employers and academic institutions to provide and integrate comprehensive mental health and wellness practices and policies into their culture and systems.
  6. Provide and promote comprehensive suicide prevention trainings across professions.
  7. Identify, evaluate, and promote community-based models that are effectively implementing evidence-informed mental health and suicide prevention programs across the country. In doing so, they should leverage relationships with community-based efforts, non-profit organizations, faith-based communities, Veterans Service Organization, and Military Service Organizations focused on saving the lives of veterans.
  8. Increase implementation of programs focused on lethal means safety (e.g., voluntary reduction of access to lethal means by individuals in crisis, free/inexpensive and easy/safe storage options).
  9. Develop a coordinated, interagency Federal funding mechanism to support, provide resources for, and facilitate the implementation of successful evidence-informed mental health and suicide prevention programs focused on veterans and their communities at the State and local levels.
  10. Streamline access to innovative suicide prevention programs and interventions by expanding the network of qualified healthcare providers.

A national public health communications campaign will begin in the coming weeks, and the recommendations will be implemented over the next two years.

Legislative efforts to advance the initiative are also anticipated, as are grants to community agencies (such as those in mental health). Since the vast majority of veterans do not interface with the VA, the engagement of partners outside the VA is a key element of the initiative. These include employers and others who interface with veterans.

“With our distinctive person-in-environment framework, we are a crucial workforce in suicide prevention, including research, policy and direct practice,” said Dr. Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW, Chief Executive Officer of NASW. “We look forward to continuing to contribute to advancing this urgently needed initiative to save lives.”

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.