Governor's Challenge to Prevent Suicide Among Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families (SMVF)

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) launched the Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide among Service Members, Veterans, and their Families in early 2019. Kansas is one of seven states participating in this challenge. The other six include: Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Hampshire, Texas, and Virginia.

The goal of this collaborative is to create a national strategy to prevent veteran suicide.

Facts About Suicide

Veterans and Suicide

  • There is a statistically significant increasing trend in the rate of suicide of Kansas Veterans ages 18-34. In 2005, the suicide rate for that age group was 1.1/100,000 (7 suicides) which increased to 3.4/100,000 (23 suicides) in 2017.
  • 38% of veterans that died by suicide had a safety plan currently in place at the time of their death. 
  • 60% of veterans that died by suicide used a firearm; 22% died by suffocation; 18% died by other methods. Those numbers are fairly consistent with total suicides in Kansas  and the regional and national numbers.
  • 35% of veterans that died by suicide had been seen at a Veterans Administration Facility within 7 days prior to death,
  • 76% were suffering from some other mental health issue including PTSD, depression, substance abuse, and bipolar disorder.
- Source: Kansas Veterans Administration

Risk Factors

  • A prior suicide attempt
  • Depression and other mental health disorders
  • Substance abuse disorder
  • Family history of mental health or substance abuse disorder
  • Family history of suicide
  • Family violence (physical or sexual abuse)
  • Having guns or other firearms in the home
  • Being in prison or jail
  • Being exposed to others' suicidal behavior (family member, peer or media figure)
  • Medical illness
  • Being between ages 15 to 24 or older than 60 years
    Men are more likely to die by suicide, but women are more likely to attempt it. Men are also more likely to use more lethal methods than women. Women are more likely to attempt by poisoning/overdose. Also, American Indian, Alaska Native youth and middle-aged people have the highest rate of suicide, followed by non-Hispanic White middle-aged and older makes. African American children under the age of 12 have a higher rate of suicide than their White peers. There has been a significant rise in the suicide rate among youth aged 10-14, making it the second leading cause of death for this age group. (Source: CDC)

      Warning Signs of Suicide

      • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
      • Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
      • Planning or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills, or newly acquired potentially lethal items (e.g., firearms, ropes)
      • Talking about great guilt or shame
      • Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
      • Feeling unbearable pain, both physical or emotional
      • Talking about being a burden to others
      • Using alcohol or drugs more often
      • Acting anxious or agitated
      • Withdrawing from family and friends
      • Changing eating and/or sleeping habits
      • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
      • Taking risks that could lead to death often
      • Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
      • Giving away important possessions
      • Saying goodbye to friends and family
      • Putting affairs in order, making a will


      • PsychAmor Institute Free Courses - PsychArmor’s mission is to bridge the civilian-military divide by ensuring that every American has the tools and resources needed to engage effectively with service members and veterans. To that end, they are providing two free courses related to Veterans Suicide Prevention, Intervention, and Postvention: "Barriers to Treatment," and "Postvention: Healing After Suicide."
      • Centers For Disease Control Suicide Prevention Information - The CDC's Suicide Prevention website includes fact sheets, references, and resources and links to extensive data on the rise in suicide rates nationwide.
      • Veteran's Crisis line #Bethere campaign - Resources to help individuals start the conversation about prevention veteran suicide and how to reach out to someone struggling.