Veterans’ Health

Grantee Name

Stop Soldier Suicide, Inc.

Funding Area

Veterans’ Health

Publication Date

February 2024

Grant Amount

$100,000 (2022);
$110,000 (2021);
$150,000 (2020)

Grant Date:

July 2020—September 2023

Suicide is a growing public health epidemic, resulting in a staggering number of lives lost each year.

Although New York State has one of the lowest suicide rates in the country, its veterans die by suicide at almost double the rate of their civilian counterparts—accounting for 1 in 7 suicides across the State. In the months leading up to the COVID-19 outbreak, Stop Soldier Suicide saw a 46% increase in requests for help from New York City veterans, while researchers warned that the pandemic would likely exacerbate underlying behavioral health issues and increase the risk of veteran suicide. In response, NYHealth awarded Stop Soldier Suicide a grant early in 2020 to expand its evidence-based suicide prevention services (known as Disrupt Veteran Suicide), identify veterans at high risk in New York City, intervene, and provide vital resources needed to stabilize veterans in or at risk of experiencing a mental health crisis.

To meet growing demand for services and respond to the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, a second grant in 2021 supported further expansion of Disrupt Veteran Suicide throughout New York City, with a targeted focus on high-need areas like Staten Island.

Finally, the following year, NYHealth awarded Stop Soldier Suicide a third grant to expand the Disrupt Veteran Suicide model across the State, with a focus on high-need areas in rural counties and Western New York.

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

  • Identified veterans at greatest risk for dying by suicide throughout New York State. Using expert-designed and validated identification approaches, Stop Soldier Suicide used digital outreach and advertising to garner nearly 100,000 impressions among at-risk service members and veterans.
  • Provided services to more than 1,000 veterans residing in New York State (far exceeding its goal to reach 700 clients), dozens of whom were deemed to be at high risk for dying by suicide. Stop Soldier Suicide kept safe an estimated 31 veterans who were in peril of attempting suicide when they first connected with the program.
  • 44% of clients surveyed reported that at some point Stop Soldier Suicide services stopped them from attempting suicide, and 57% reported improvement in personal health within their first three months of treatment.
  • At the end of treatment, 87% of clients said they were able to manage their thoughts and feelings. Substantial proportions of participants reported a reduction in agitation (62% of clients), stress (58%), psychological pain (54%), hopelessness (54%), and self-hate (50%).
  • Created referral partnerships with stakeholders including the New York City Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Community Engagement Partnerships Coordinator (a newly created position within the VA dedicated to greater community-based support, particularly for military suicide prevention); the Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Program; Mission VetCheck (a collaboration between the nonprofit New York Cares and the City’s Department of Veterans’ Services); and SAGE (a service provider and advocate for LGBTQ elders).
  • Expanded and leveraged partnerships to deliver a full spectrum of needed services, including inpatient, substance use, intensive outpatient, outpatient, and mental health services and referrals. Provided daily, weekly, and monthly check-ins with clients as needed, administering a total of 1,075 hours of clinical services to veterans in need across New York State.

In the early stages of this project, Stop Soldier Suicide encountered two challenges that were exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic. First, even prior to the onset of COVID-19, many service members and veterans in the downstate region of New York were difficult to reach because they were unhoused or moved frequently. At the height of the pandemic, even more New York City residents sought refuge elsewhere in the State and even throughout the country, requiring Stop Soldier Suicide to cast a wider net to identify and reach its target audience. Second, Stop Soldier Suicide encountered early challenges collecting detailed demographic data from clients. The primary focus was stabilizing clients and ensuring their safety, so data collection was not always a priority. In addition, some clients fell out of communication with Stop Soldier Suicide staff members after initial contact, making it impossible to track long-term outcomes among some veterans who participated in the program.

In addition, although Stop Soldier Suicide has experience serving clients in a variety of geographic markets, New York City-area veterans proved to be atypical of its clients in other areas of the country. For example, in New York City, the target population is younger than Stop Soldier Suicide’s average client (more than one-third of New York City clients were age 34 or younger, compared with 25% nationally). Clients in New York City were also more likely to be Black (49%) or Latino (26%) than nationally (32% and 7%, respectively). A larger number of New York City clients were also unhoused (38% compared with 26% nationally). Meeting the unique needs of New York veterans required Stop Soldier Suicide to refine its methods to identify and reach veterans at high risk of suicide. Outreach to minority veteran populations was a priority in New York, resulting in more than half of clients in New York being Black, Latino, and women veterans.

Co-Funding and Additional Funds Leveraged: N/A