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New VA Initiative Eyes Reducing Veteran Suicide

‘Mission Daybreak’ is allocating $20 million toward mental health and suicide prevention efforts.

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image of Department of Veterans Affairs Director of Suicide Prevention Dr. Matthew Miller.
Department of Veterans Affairs Director of Suicide Prevention Dr. Matthew Miller. Photo Credit: Department of Veterans Affairs

The Department of Veterans Affairs is launching Mission Daybreak, an initiative providing funding and support for new suicide-prevention strategies.

Through the program, $20 million will be allocated to researchers, technologists and clinicians developing new programs for suicide prevention and other forms of mental health support.

VA has endeavored to merge its increasingly sophisticated IT enterprise and data processing capacities with a focus on addressing veteran mental health, particularly the need to provide critical support for veterans facing especially dire mental health challenges.

Mission Daybreak represents the latest step within these efforts through providing support to self-directed research teams that merge preexisting expertise with the technical capacities offered by VA’s modernized IT resources. These technical capacities includes various analytic tools, with access to data, surveys, and reports on Veteran suicide prevention serving as one of the cornerstones of the Mission Daybreak project.

VA previously announced its National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide in 2018, a comprehensive roadmap for reducing veteran suicide that combined community support programs and clinical services with technical capacities able to better identify veterans in crisis and more swiftly provide needed aid.

This was followed by a disclosure that veteran suicides declined in 2019, the first annual decrease since veteran suicides began rising on an annual basis since 2007.

“In the most recent National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report more than 45,000 American adults died by suicide — including 6,261 Veterans. That’s why Mission Daybreak is fostering solutions across a broad spectrum of focus areas to combat this preventable problem,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough in an accompanying statement.

VA’s new approach to suicide prevention has centered on using its resources to meet the particular needs of veterans, especially in accounting for the variable personal histories and mental health challenges that can precipitate a serious crisis. Mission Daybreak’s allocations foster new approaches to mental health support, with VA research teams submitting project concepts by July 8 in order for their work to be reviewed and receive additional funding — with the intent of launching the most promising entrants as full programs by 2023.

Ultimately, Mission Daybreak’s broader intent is to foster this ongoing marriage of complex technical capacities with a holistic approach to mental health support that recognizes a veteran’s individual needs, a mission VA leadership emphasized during the accompanying press conference.

“One key facilitator of innovation and an innovative environment is having an ecological perspective, which is an understanding of the individual within the context of everything around them,” said Dr. Matt Miller, director of suicide prevention at VA.

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