[Excerpt] Congress has attempted to address the problem of suicide among veterans through legislation and oversight hearings, both on prevention of veteran suicide specifically and on veteran mental health more broadly. A task as challenging as preventing suicide requires collaboration among federal agencies, state and local governments, other organizations, communities, and individuals. This report, however, focuses on activities of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VHA’s approach to suicide prevention is based in part on the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, which involves multiple federal departments, including the VA, Defense (DOD), and Education (ED), as well as several agencies within Health and Human Services (HHS). While this CRS report focuses on suicide prevention efforts of the VHA, activities of other entities are discussed as they relate to VHA activities.
This CRS report begins with a brief overview of the public health framework for suicide prevention, which forms the basis for both the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention and the VHA’s approach to suicide prevention. The three subsequent parts of the report correspond to the three major components of the public health framework: (1) suicide surveillance, (2) suicide risk factors and protective factors, and (3) suicide prevention interventions. The final section addresses potential issues for Congress, and the Appendix summarizes provisions of public laws addressing suicide prevention among veterans.