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ASCEND for Veteran Suicide Prevention

Series to commemorate Memorial Day in the United States.  Flags on headstones in a military cemetary.
A recurring national surveillance study to inform efforts to combat Veteran suicides
  • Client
    U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Rocky Mountain Mental Illness, Research, Education and Clinical Center for Veteran Suicide Prevention
  • Dates
    June 2019 - Present

Problem

Suicide among Veterans is a growing crisis that is poorly understood. 

The motivations and circumstances leading to veterans' suicides are complex. Because only 30 percent of veterans use services from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), creating effective public health programs to reduce suicidal behaviors and violence in veterans is challenging. Research often misses some hard-to-reach or understudied veteran populations, including women, those living in rural areas, and those who have recently left active-duty service. Also, little is known about factors that can prevent suicidal behavior in veterans, including social, family, and VA support systems. These shortcomings in our knowledge have hampered efforts to create a surveillance system to prevent suicide across all veteran populations.

Solution

Created and designed a national survey of Veterans. 

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) partnered with NORC to design and implement a large national survey of veterans inside and outside the Veterans Health Administration system. The survey, called Assessing Social and Community Environments with National Data (ASCEND) for Veteran Suicide Prevention, aims to learn more about the number of veterans experiencing suicidal thoughts, what puts veterans at risk for suicide, and the behaviors, including family and community support, that can protect them from suicidal thoughts and actions.

This project incorporates previous NORC efforts to design and field a pilot study to determine best practices for surveying this population. NORC created a national, multi-faceted survey of veterans with over 17,000 completed interviews in 2022. Data collection techniques included online, paper-and-pencil, and computer-assisted telephone interviewing. Following data collection, NORC  led the project's data processing, weighting, analysis, data delivery, and reporting. In 2023, NORC is continuing to collaborate with the VA on the dissemination of results through  journal articles and conference presentations.

Result

Our insights are improving Veteran suicide prevention programs. 

Study findings will inform VA and national public health efforts to prevent suicide among veterans. Results will be made public in September 2023.

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