Delaware Launches Campaign to Combat Veteran Suicide   

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A new campaign is now underway that aims to better identify suicide risk among military members and veterans. The “Ask the Question” campaign will be piloted at the Delaware Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health’s Bridge Clinics.  The campaign centers around breaking the stigma and identifying risk by first asking the question: “Have you, or a member of your immediate family, ever served in the military?” The goal is to connect Delawareans with service experience to resources that they’ve earned and help address their unique needs.

Additional Information from the Lieutenant Governor’s Office:

 Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long and the Delaware Governor’s Challenge announced a new campaign on Thursday that aims to better identify suicide risk among military members and veterans. The “Ask the Question” campaign will be piloted at the Delaware Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health’s Bridge Clinics.   

The campaign centers around breaking the stigma and identifying risk by first asking the question: Have you, or a member of your immediate family, ever served in the military? The goal is to connect Delawareans with service experience to resources that they’ve earned and help address their unique needs.    

“While we’ve taken steps to address suicide prevention, there are still far too many Delawareans reluctant to seek help and share their experiences. Our military members are especially at risk with veterans and service members 4 times more likely to die by suicide than civilian counterparts,” said Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long, Ph.D, R.N and co-chair of the Delaware Governor’s Challenge. “Asking the question regarding service is just the entry point; this initiative is about ensuring veterans and service members are connected to the resources they’ve earned. I’m so grateful for the Delaware Governor’s Challenge team and the partnership of the DSAMH Bridge Clinics to specifically respond to the needs of our veterans and service members through the “Ask the Question” campaign.”  

Formed in 2022, the Delaware Governor’s Challenge is co-chaired by Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long and retired Major General Frank Vavala, and is in collaboration with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It is part of a national effort that seeks to expand mental health resources for the veteran community and implement suicide prevention best practices and policies for veterans, service members, and their families across the state by using a public health approach. There are three key priority areas:   

  • Identifying Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families (SMVF) and Screening for Suicide Risk   
  • Promoting Connectedness and Improving Care Transitions   
  • Increasing Lethal Means Safety and Safety Planning   

Delaware is home to more than 66,000 veterans, according to data from SAMHSA and the VA. Through this challenge, public-private partners are working to combine community-based strategies, prevention, and intervention to support service members and veterans, and build on plans for the First State.   

Communication is the key to breaking the stigma. We have to address veteran and military suicide head-on, and asking the question about risk in a sensitive, culturally competent manner is the first step,” said Major General Frank Vavala. “Our military members put their lives on hold to serve their country, we need to be there for them when they cry out for help.”    

“Ask the Question” serves as a call to action and has been adopted in other states participating in the national Governor’s Challenge, such as New Hampshire and Maryland. As part of Delaware’s “Ask the Question” pilot, Bridge Clinic staff will utilize a two-prong approach to identify and address suicide risk. Following the SAMHSA and VA best practice Columbia Protocol, anyone coming into the Bridge Clinics will be screened for suicide risk and asked about service status. If someone is identified as having service experience, then they will be offered a peer professional to help assess any underlying causes that may impact suicide risk like social determinants of health. Additionally, the campaign helps to connect Bridge Clinic staff with professional development opportunities on military cultural competency and resources from other states who are engaging with the Governor’s Challenge.   

 
“DSAMH is thankful to be a part of the ‘Ask the Question’ campaign. Asking the question, ‘Have you, or a member of your immediate family, ever served in the military?’ can lead to improved access to care and quality of care for our veterans. This initiative will engage and educate providers throughout Delaware about the importance of connecting with those who have served,” said Dr. Gerard Gallucci, MD MHS, Acting Medical Director for the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.  

Are you a clinician, provider, family member, service member or veteran looking to get involved with the Delaware Governor’s Challenge? Here are a few ways to link with the team:   

  • Visit the website de.gov/governorschallenge to learn more   
  • Email bhc@delaware.gov to join a workgroup on a challenge priority area   

Additional Resources:   

  • Visit helpisherede.com   
  • Delaware Hope Line: Dial 1 (833) 9-HOPEDE   
  • Delaware 211: Dial 211 
  • National Suicide and Crisis Hotline: Dial 988; Veterans and their loved ones can now Dial 988, then press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line 

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