Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide in Servicemembers, Veterans, and their Families

Georgia joined the nationwide Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide in Servicemembers, Veterans, and their Families (SMVF) in 2020 with the support of Governor Brian Kemp.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) coordinates with the Department of Veterans Affairs to bring the SMVF program to states, territories, and communities across the nation. 54 states and territories are currently taking part in the challenge and are working to develop and implement state-wide suicide prevention best practices for SMVF, using a public health approach.

Governor’s Challenge teams develop plans to implement the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide, which provides a framework for identifying priorities, organizing efforts, and contributing to a national focus on veteran suicide prevention.

Georgia’s Governor's Challenge team has created 4 Priority Groups to prevent suicide among service members, veterans, and their families.

  • Priority Group 1:  Screening/Ask the Question -  It can be difficult to screen for military service when someone is experiencing crisis. Knowing if someone or their family members have served can shape how therapy or treatment plans should be structured. This group focuses on teaching mental health responders, communities, and individuals how to identify military service members and veterans. Trainings include learning how and when to ask, "Have you or a family member ever served in the military?" 
  • Priority Group 2:  Connectedness - Connectedness to others (including family members, co-workers, online friends, community organizations, and social institutions, etc.) and creating a network of support leads often leads to a brighter future for someone experiencing suicidal thoughts. This group focuses on finding opportunities to connect local, state, and federal partners into a coordinated care net and increasing  communication with each other to leave no veteran without a caring ear. 
  • Priority Group 3: Lethal Means Safety - One of the most effective ways to help someone experiencing a crisis is reducing their access to things they could use for self-harm. Completing a personal safety plan to safely store firearms and medications can make a great difference in delaying or surviving a suicide. This group focuses on teaching individuals how to create a safety plan and provides information or resources to community partners to promote safe practices. 
  • Priority Group 4: Faith Based Partnerships - This group focuses on engaging faith leaders from all denominations to train, educate, and advocate for mental health and suicide prevention within their congregations. Empowering faith leaders with a variety of resources and connecting with mental and behavioral health resources in their communities helps create a broad web of support for those in crisis. 

The Governor's Challenge team meets at least once a month for a virtual summit and status update, as well as gathering at several larger events throughout the year. If you are interested in joining the Challenge team, please contact the GDVS Suicide Prevention and Outreach Coordinator