The highest number of veterans who die by suicide are between 55 and 74 years old.
We cannot have a dialogue about veteran suicide without talking about the veterans who are most underserved by the current system of veteran care and systemically denied access to the resources they need to rebuild their lives after military service. This includes veterans of color, senior veterans, “bad paper” veterans, veterans with mental health issues, and other marginalized veteran communities. By embedding suicide prevention services in our wraparound care, we can more effectively address all social determinants of health, including housing, access to healthcare, benefits and income, community connection, and peer support.
Our expertise has allowed us to shape conversations on veteran suicide prevention in California. In 2022, we were one of three organizations in the state to be awarded the Department of Veterans Affairs’ new SSG Fox Suicide Prevention Grant. This new 3-year program will enhance our existing programming, increase training and screening, and ultimately improve veteran health, wellness, and utilization of care. In order to build sustainable care models rooted in the community and accessible to all veterans, we need to see more intention from local governments to support veterans in suicidal crisis.
We need to make meaningful investments in the community-based organizations that are already doing this work to prevent veteran suicide. Let’s not go wider, let’s go deeper. — Michael Blecker