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VA Puget Sound wants community to know that suicide is preventable!

Suicide prevention 2023 call to action

In 2015, the shocking statistic of 22 Veteran suicides each day was cited across the nation. And Veterans continue to be at higher risk for suicide compared to the general population.

The suicide rate among Veterans in 2019 was 52 percent higher than non-Veteran adults in the U.S., according to the 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report.  Stressful life events like divorce, job loss, substance use, or housing troubles can be risk factors for suicide. Among Veterans, these challenges can be compounded by stigma around sharing their problems with others and seeking help. In 2020, there were 6,146 Veteran suicides. This was on average 16.8 per day. In 2020, there were 343 fewer Veteran suicides than in 2019, and the number of Veteran suicides was lower than each prior year since 2006.

“Our message is one of hope,” said VA Puget Sound Health Care System Executive Director Dr. Thomas Bundt. “Life’s challenges—like trouble sleeping or financial stress—can often lead to crisis. We want to help struggling Veterans seek help before they reach that point by connecting them to resources for their unique needs. Our Veterans don’t have to solve these challenges alone!”

“The Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs is proud to partner with the VA Puget Sound Health Care System to reduce the risk of suicide for service members, Veterans and their families,” said WDVA Director David Puente. “Collaborative efforts such as the Governor’s Challenge and Staff Sergeant Fox Grant are helping connect Veterans to the VA leading to awareness of services and earlier identification of risk factors.”

As part of VA Puget Sound’s ongoing effort to address this public health issue, it is holding many events during September, National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The goal is to encourage Veterans to reach out for help before their challenges become overwhelming and the public to learn how they can help.

  • September 6, 2023 (11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.): VA Puget Sound Suicide Prevention Awareness Walk will be held at its American Lake Campus will have a 11:30 a.m. kick-off event with VA Puget Sound Deputy Director Susan Perez and VA Executive Director for Logistics Redesign at the Office of the Assistant Under Secretary for Health David Sloniker. Open to public.
  • September 7: In partnership with Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, VA Puget Sound will host a Suicide Prevention Think Tank at its Seattle Campus, bringing together local, state and federal leaders to discuss collective opportunities to address Veteran suicide and the stressors that contribute to mental health crisis. Participants include VA Northwest Region, VA Puget Sound, Veterans Benefits Administration, Seahawks, University of Washington, Joint Based Lewis-McChord, National Association of Black Veterans, AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Vet Center, Washington Cohen Veterans Network leadership along with three members of Congress—Rep. Rick Larsen (WA02), Rep. Suzan DelBene (WA01) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA07)—and State Representatives Tina Orwall and Mari Leavitt. Not open to public.
  • September 19 (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.): VA Puget Sound Suicide Prevention and Whole Health Wellness Fair. Open to the public, this is an opportunity to celebrate wellness and whole health. Attendees can join in a collaborative art project, while learning about community and VA resources that enhance physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional health and wellbeing. Thirty programs and agencies will be onsite highlighting how they serve Veterans. The fair takes place at its Seattle Campus’s outside plaza area in front of the main entrance. Open to public.
  • September 20 (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.): VA Puget Sound’s second Suicide Prevention and Whole Health Wellness Fair Wellness Fair will be held at its American Lake Campus. The fair will take place outside Building 9. It is an opportunity for the community to learn about VA and community resources available to Veterans that can help build connections and reduce stressors. Programs such as the Wounded Warrior Project, Ted Brown Music Therapy Program, Hope for Heroes Horsemanship Center, and the Cohen Clinic for Military Families will be on site.  Open to public.
  • September 27 (10 to 11 a.m. event, 11 to 4 p.m. open house): VA Puget Sound will hold its Veteran Gallery Opening at its Seattle Campus (Building 101). The Veterans Art Gallery recognizes the creative achievements and self-expression of Veteran artists entrusted to VA Puget Sound for care. Creating art helps Veterans heal.  And sharing that art helps support a sense of community, value and belonging.  Twenty-two pieces of artwork are on display to raise awareness of lives taken each day to Veteran suicide.  Open to public.
  • September 29 (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.): VA Puget Sound hosts its 11th Annual Behavioural Health Summit (virtual). This year’s theme is Creating Safety by Forging Relationships. Geared to public and private providers and community partners, the summit includes learning and discussions focused on lethal means safety, counselling, peer support programs, and diversity, equity and Inclusion.  Open to public. Register at

VA Puget Sound’s commitment to suicide prevention—while elevated during the month of September—is constant.

As the fourth most frequent referral site nationally, VA Puget Sound’s Suicide Prevention Team has responded to more than 4,000 referrals from the Veterans Crisis Line so far in Fiscal Year 2023. The steady increase in the number of referrals received from the Veteran’s Crisis Line over the past decade suggests that the VA Puget Sound Veteran community is aware of—and willing to utilize—this important entry point for VA mental health services.

The team also proactively reaches out to Veterans identified as high-risk, offering additional paths into care. At any given time, VA Puget Sound also works closely with an average of 115 Veterans who have been determined to be at particularly high clinical risk for suicide that may pose a threat to themselves.  Nearly 100 additional Veterans who have been identified as extremely high statistical risk for suicide are also closely monitored to ensure suicide risk is actively managed.

Regular caring contact is made with all Veterans whose high-risk flags have been removed in the last 12 months. Caring contacts are also offered to Veterans who discharge from VA Puget Sound’s High Acuity Inpatient Psychiatric Unit, and they are sent to many additional Veterans identified by the REACH VET suicide prevention program. For Fiscal Year 2022, more than 2,000 caring cards were sent to Veterans across the region, offering an additional path for staying connected to care.

The Suicide Prevention Team is also heavily engaged in the ongoing education of our providers and partners who serve Veterans.  Over the past couple years, it has provided training on suicide prevention best practices to more than 700 providers who work with Veterans, both inside and outside of the VA. In addition, in-person and virtual outreach events have reached more than 6,000 Veterans, family members, and community agencies directly. This includes a suicide prevention training specifically focused on indigenous Veterans across the Puget Sound region that is currently being adopted and tailored to indigenous communities served by other VA facilities across the country. And just this year, the team stood up more than a dozen local suicide prevention coalitions with community partners.

On the national front, VA continues to partner with the Ad Council as part of its 10-year strategy to end Veteran suicide through a comprehensive public health approach.  The national “Don’t Wait. Reach Out.” campaign encourages Veterans to reach out for help if they are struggling, and developed a website at that makes it easy for Veterans to navigate the full range of resources available.  

Veterans in crisis or concerned about one, are encouraged to contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive 24/7 confidential support. Veterans don't have to be enrolled in VA benefits or health care to connect. To reach responders, dial 988 then Press 1, chat online at, or text 838255. The goal with the easier to remember, 988 number, is that it becomes as second nature as calling 911.

About VA Puget Sound

VA Puget Sound provides comprehensive care to more than 155,000 enrolled Veterans across Western Washington with a primary care team at one of its care sites: two main campuses (American Lake and Seattle), seven outpatient clinics (Edmonds, Everett, Mount Vernon, Olympia, Port Angeles, Puyallup and Silverdale) and Community Resource & Referral Center (Georgetown neighborhood in Seattle) and a Homeless Primary Care Team in Renton. As the VA’s 4th largest research program, VA Puget Sound has research in virtually every major clinical department, including: TBI and multiple blast exposures; memory improvement and Alzheimer's Disease; PTSD and deployment health; Parkinson’s Disease; diabetes; cancer; substance abuse; lower limb prosthetics; genomics; and Health Services. Additionally, it has seven nationally recognized Centers of Excellence (in areas from limb-loss prevention and prosthetic engineering to primary care education and substance abuse treatment). For more information visit or call 800-329-8387.  For Veterans in Crisis, please use the Veterans Crisis line at 988 (press 1).