Mississippi joins multi-state effort with the governor’s challenge to prevent suicide

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Jackson, Miss. – Mississippi is pleased to be one of eight states accepted this year in the Governor’s Challenge to Prevention Suicide Among Service Members, Veterans, and their Families.

This initiative is a partnership between the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to develop and implement statewide suicide prevention best practices through a public health approach. The eight states accepted into the Governor’s Challenge this year join 27 others in their efforts to form local partnerships and action plans that prevent suicide in service members, veterans, and their families. The challenge will run through August 2021, with technical assistance events and activities to occur throughout the year.

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“I am proud that Mississippi is participating in the Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide. It is so important that our state work to protect the mental health of our service members, veterans, and their families,” Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said. “These men and women put their lives on the line to keep us safe and keep our country free. I look forward to working with the Department of Mental Health and organizations across the state to help prevent suicide among Mississippi’s veterans.”


Representatives from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center in Jackson, and the Mississippi Department of Mental Health (DMH) held their first call the week of March 8, 2021.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, in its 2020 Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, notes the number of suicide deaths has been increasing since the turn of the millennium. In 2018, 6,435 veterans died by suicide, an average of 17.6 deaths by suicide each day. In Mississippi, 61 veterans died by suicide in 2018.

“Each death by suicide is one too many,” DMH Executive Director Wendy Bailey said. “We are so pleased Mississippi was selected to join the Governor’s Challenge and given the opportunity to collaborate with organizations and people who share the same goal of preventing suicide among Mississippi’s veterans.”

She continued, “We look forward to developing and implementing plans that help our service members, veterans, and their families remain healthy and receive the support and connection to services they deserve.”

The Mississippi Department of Mental Health currently organizes a Suicide Prevention Workgroup that includes participation from the Mississippi State Department of Health, researchers with the University of Southern Mississippi, faith-based organizations, suicide prevention advocates, and others. Since 2016, the workgroup has worked on the development and implementation of the Mississippi Suicide Prevention Plan.

A cornerstone of the plan has been the Shatter the Silence public awareness campaign, which includes different presentations tailored for audiences who work in the fields of education, older adult services, faith-based settings, corrections, law enforcement, and the military.

DMH has also participated in National Guard Yellow Ribbon events to provide presentations and suicide prevention materials to attendees there. DMH reached approximately 1,000 service men and women and 500 family members during two events in FY19 and plans to participate in additional events when they resume.

As DMH moves forward with the Governor’s Challenge this year, team members will include representatives from:

  • The Mississippi Department of Mental Health
  • The Mississippi National Guard
  • Mississippi Veterans Affairs
  • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Leadership from veteran, military family, and caregiver organizations
  • Private sector providers and peer support specialists

For more information on the Department of Mental Health, visit us online at www.dmh.ms.gov.