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Colorado introduces new suicide prevention program for military veterans

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The day after Veterans Day, The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) announced a new, online suicide prevention platform for veterans and members of the military.
Credit: PBS, "American Veteran"

If you have an immediate mental health crisis, please call Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-8255 or text TALK to 38255. Or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also chat with the Lifeline.

DENVER — The day after Veterans Day, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) announced a new, online suicide prevention platform for veterans and members of the military.

The program is called Operation Veteran Strong. It is free and confidential—available 24/7— and allows veterans to connect with national and local resources designed to prevent mental health crises.

“Veterans, servicemembers and their families have been a priority focus for suicide prevention efforts in Colorado. We are pleased to have the leadership of a multi-agency collaborative group providing focus and support for these efforts,” said Sarah Brummett, director of the Office of the Suicide Prevention at CDPHE, in a news release. “The launch of this Colorado resource represents one tool for communities, families, and individuals to promote health and well-being and to connect with veteran-specific resources in our state.”

Veterans make up about 10% of Colorado’s population, yet 17% of all suicides in Colorado are veterans, according to CDPHE. Moreover, “the suicide rate among veterans is more than double the rate of non-veterans,” CDPHE added.

However, this was not always the case. In a recently published report from Brown University, researchers noted that “historically, suicide rates among active component service members have been lower than suicide rates among civilians.”

There was a dramatic shift after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The report found that “veterans of post-9/11 conflicts are disproportionately dying by suicide compared to previous military service eras.”

The research paper estimated that about 30,000 active duty personnel and veterans of the post 9/11 wars have died from suicide, more than four times the number of service members killed in post-9/11 war operations.

The epidemic of veteran suicide has continued despite the immense amount of money and resources that have been put forth to end it. In fiscal year 2021, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) received $10.2 billion for suicide prevention programs.

The agencies behind Operation Veteran Strong hope they can be part of the solution. Operation Veteran Strong is the result of Colorado’s participation in the Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide Among Service Members, Veterans, and their Families, which was convened in 2018.

Denver-based behavioral health tech company Grit Digital Health created Operation Veteran Strong along with CDPHE and the VA.

In a news release, VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System Director Michael Kilmer said, “Take the time to learn the story of the veteran in your life or go out of your way to honor and get to know the veterans and the resources that exist in your community.”


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline


Veteran Crisis Line

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