Preventing Veteran suicide is a priority for the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs. Suicide has claimed more than 100 Minnesota Veteran lives per year during the past five years. As this rate continues to increase, especially among younger Veterans, the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs is collaborating with others to identify the root causes of Veteran suicide and create an innovative, cooperative way to reverse this trend. We are working toward zero Veteran deaths by suicide in Minnesota.
MDVA is partnering with the VA Healthcare System to distribute free gun locks. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, a locked gun can mean the difference between a tragic outcome and a life saved for someone in crisis. Though Veterans are well-versed in firearm safety, all gun owners should understand that during emotional or stressful times, delaying access to a gun could mean the difference between life and death. Gun locks can prevent someone in crisis from tragically taking their own life.
In an effort to reduce these preventable tragedies, MDVA is offering free gun locks. To request a gun lock, please email SuicidePrevention.MDVA@state.mn.us with your name and address. This information will not be shared; requests are confidential.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255, press 1.
The Veterans Crisis Line is the world’s largest provider of crisis call, text, and chat services, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It serves more than 650,000 calls every year, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Users also may text to 838255 or chat online to receive confidential crisis intervention and support.
The acronym S.A.V.E. can help one remember important steps involved in suicide prevention if you encounter a Veteran in crisis:
S – Signs of suicidal thinking should be recognized.
A – Ask the most important question of all: Are you thinking of killing yourself?
V – Validate the Veteran’s experience.
E – Encourage treatment and expedite getting help.
Veteran suicide is often the result of a combination of factors, including mental or physical illness, alcohol or drug abuse, painful loss, exposure to violence, social isolation, and access to lethal weapons. Veterans are at a higher risk for suicide than the civilian population.
Minnesota hopes to increase the ability of its local communities to coordinate culturally appropriate suicide prevention activities through the following objectives:
In March 2020, Minnesota was selected as one of seven states to participate in the “Governor’s Challenge” to eliminate Veteran death by suicide. This is a collaborative effort with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Veterans Health Administration (VHA), and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Together, we will implement state-wide suicide prevention best practices for service members, Veterans, and their families, defining and measuring the success of their work.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has directed multiple state agencies, including the Minnesota Departments of Veterans Affairs, Military Affairs, Higher Education, Human Services, Health, and Agriculture, to prioritize this effort and work alongside other state, federal and local organizations. Veteran Suicide Prevention Training is already underway at MDVA to help employees understand the signs of suicidal behavior so they can connect with Veterans before they reach a crisis point.
“Grassroots efforts are how we will be able to make a difference.” That is a key takeaway for the Minnesota Governor’s Challenge Team who recently attended a virtual training sponsored by the VA, VHA and SAMHSA and finalized Minnesota’s Veteran Suicide Prevention Strategic Plan. This plan will be implemented over the coming year and includes four priority areas:
The team’s summary poster noted that “Suicide prevention is everyone’s business” and providing prevention training across the state is key to reducing Veteran death by suicide.