Veterans and Service Members in West Virginia are at significantly higher risk of dying by suicide than non-veterans in the state. We lose several dozen Veterans per year, in spite of the many organizations, agencies, and people at work to prevent the crisis of suicide.
The Federal Department of Veterans Affairs and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration launched the Governor's Challenge to Prevent Suicide among Service Members, Veterans, and their Families (SMVF) in early 2019. West Virginia has had an active team since 2020.
The goal of the program is to bring together leaders in local, state, and federal government, nonprofit organizations, service providers, and communities to align efforts to prevent veteran suicide.
Suicide is a complex issue, with no single cause. Risk factors can include uch things as - a prior suicide attempt, certain mental health conditions such as PTSD and Depression, Substance Abuse Disorder, and many more.
High stress life events can also lead to increased risk. Veterans are trained to handle many challenges, but no one is immune from life's stresses and difficulties.
Life events that can cause high levels of stress may include things such as transitioning from military service to civilian life, losing a job, divorce, the passing of a loved one, financial difficulty, housing insecurity, food insecurity and more.
It is better to deal with the underlying causes that can lead one to crisis before they develop into a suicide attempt. Governor's Challenge team members are provided with the tools and contacts to support these efforts.
The Governor's Challenge Team in West Virginia needs additional members willing to work toward the goal of eliminating Veteran suicide within the state. We need members who focus on mental and physical health. But we also need community and veteran service organizations - people who may know the veterans in their area who are struggling, so we can work togetherto get them the help they need.
If you are a Veteran in crisis, or know a Veteran in crisis - call the Veterans Crisis Line immediately by dialing 988, then pressing 1.
For more information about resources availiable, or for information on how to get involved, please contact one of the West Virginia Governor's Challenge Team Co-leads -
Daryle Bayless, Communication Director - West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance
Elliot Birckhead, Deputy Commissioner - West Virginia Bureau of Behavioral Health
Deanna Stump, Suicide Prevention Program Manager, VISN5: VA Capitol Health Care Network, Veterans Health Administration