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President Trump Signs New Executive Order to Address Veteran Suicide Prevention

On Wednesday, U.S. President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order titled “National Initiative to Empower Veterans and End Veterans Suicide” to establish a national task force to prevent veteran suicide. The executive order, also called the PREVENTS Initiative, will pull together the heads of departments across the government as well as in the community.

This new Veteran Wellness, Empowerment and Suicide Prevention Task Force will have a year to develop a public health roadmap to address veteran suicide. They will also need to design a program to award local grants for suicide prevention initiatives that can be presented to Congress as well as new research initiatives to advance our understanding of how well current suicide prevention efforts are working and develop new strategies.

“We are committed to saving Veteran lives, but just as there is no single cause of suicide, no single organization can end veteran suicide alone,” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a press release. “We must work side by side with our partners at all levels of government — and in the private sector — to provide our Veterans with the mental health and suicide prevention services they need.”

Trump also highlighted why the PREVENTS initiative is so important during the signing. According to a 2018 VA report on veteran suicide, the suicide rate for veterans — like the suicide rate across the country — increased from 2008 to 2015. There was a slight decline in the rate of veteran suicides between 2015 and 2016, but veterans are still 1.5 times greater than the general population to die by suicide.

In January 2018, Trump signed an executive order that aimed to support veterans’ mental health with the “Supporting Our Veterans During Their Transition From Uniformed Service to Civilian Life” initiative. This mandate tasked the VA and the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to ensure all new veterans receive mental health care for at least a year after finishing active service. A joint action plan was approved in May 2018 and included 16 initiatives to support veteran mental health, including expanding peer support outreach.

Trump’s latest initiative was hailed by veteran suicide prevention organizations, and it makes good on a promise Trump made during his presidential campaign.

“Our mission is to mobilize every level of American society to save the lives of our great veterans and support our veterans in need,” Trump said, according to a VA blog post. “To every veteran I want you to know that you have an entire nation of more than 300 million people behind you. You will never ever be forgotten. We are with you all the way.”

Header image Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian.