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Veteran Suicide Prevention



Virginia Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide
Among Service Members, Veterans, and their Families in Virginia

28 Feb 20

In January 2019, Governor Northam committed Virginia to be one of the first seven states to implement the Governor’s Suicide Prevention Challenge. The Challenge is a call to action for state and local communities to implement the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) 2018-2028 National Strategy for the Prevention of Veteran Suicide and is guided by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) . The aim of the National Strategy is to prevent suicide among Service Members, Veterans, and their Families (SMVF) using a comprehensive public health approach. The Virginia Governor’s Challenge is co-led by the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, Carlos Hopkins, and the Secretary of Health and Human Resources, Dr. Daniel Carey, and has developed a strategic framework, which is currently being implemented state-wide.

Governor's Challenge Overview

GAMVC and Governors Challenge Suicide Awareness and Prevention Messages_2.28.2020

How We Can Help: Start the Conversation

Resources for community groups and organizations


Steps that can help you save a veterans life.


Clues you can observe that may indicate a veteran is considering suicide.  Hopelessness, anxiety, agitation, insomnia, mood changes, feeling there is no reason to live, rage or anger, withdrawal from family or friends, alcohol.

  • Thoughts of hurting or killing themselves
  • Looking for ways to die
  • Talking about death, dying or suicide
  • Self-destructive or risk-taking behavior, especially including alcohol, drugs or weapons.

Click here for more signs and a Self-Check Quiz

Ask the most important question of all: 'are you thinking about killing yourself.'

  • DO ask whenever you have seen warning signs
  • DO ask in a natural way

This reduces stigma and makes the veteran feel more comfortable talking with you.

  • DON'T ask the question in a way that sounds like you are expecting a 'no' answer.
  • DON'T wait to ask the question until the veteran is - or you are- leaving.

Stay calm. Listen more than you speak. Make eye contact and keep it. Don't argue with the veteran. Make your body language open and comfortable. Make your comments encouraging and supportive.  Be honest that this is a difficult situation and the answer is not a quick fix, but there is help available.


Validate the veteran's experience.

  • Talk openly about suicide.
  • Listen and allow the veteran to talk.
  • Acknowledge that the situation is serious, but do not judge.
  • Reassure the veteran that help is available and you will help him or her find it.

E.ncourage & expedite

  • Do not keep it a secret
  • Do not leave the veteran alone.
  • Try to get immediate help from his or her doctor, from the nearest ER, or from 911.
  • Call the veterans crisis line 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 for veterans.
  • Text the Veterans Crisis Line at 838255
  • Visit and click Confidential Veterans Chat

Safety Issues to Remember

  • Never negotiate with someone who has a gun
  • Get to safety and call 911
  • If the veteran has
    • taken pills
    • cut him or herself
    • done harm to him or herself in some other way
    • call 911 immediately