Overview: HSR&D Efforts Toward VA’s Commitment to Suicide Prevention
Reducing suicide among Veterans continues to be one of VA’s top priorities. As part of VA’s efforts to better understand and address this problem, the 2020 National Veteran Prevention Annual Report examined mortality records from all 50 states and Washington, DC from 2005 to 2018. The Report showed:
HSR&D strives to bring these numbers down with an array of research on suicide and suicide prevention. In addition to numerous individual studies, HSR&D’s Suicide Prevention Research Impact NeTwork (SPRINT) works to accelerate suicide prevention research that will lead to improvements in care, and that will ultimately result in reductions in suicide behaviors among Veterans. VA HSR&D’s Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI) also supports several programs and projects targeting suicide prevention. For example, the Randomized Evaluation of a Caring Letters Suicide Prevention Campaign is testing the effects of a Caring Letters Campaign on Veteran Crisis Line callers. Sponsored by HSR&D and the VA Women’s Health Research Network, a recently published special Medical Care supplement will help increase the knowledge base on women and suicide as well as increase national awareness of suicide among women, which may further increase the resources available to tackle this growing concern.
In addition, HSR&D’s Center to Improve Veterans Involvement in Care (CIVIC) partnered with DoD’s Telehealth and Technology Center to develop and test the Virtual Hope Box smartphone app. When using the virtual hope box, a Veteran sets up the app with photos of friends and family, sound bites and videos of loved ones and special moments, music, relaxation exercises, games, helpline numbers, and reminders of reasons for living. As of Spring 2018, the app had been downloaded 400,000 times, with high positive feedback.