A $20 million competition is being held by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs to find the best ways to lower the number of veteran suicides in this country each year, which occurs thousands of times yearly.
Mission Daybreak is a competition aiming to bring "new thinking, outside viewpoints, and novel concepts" to the department to assist rescue veterans. According to the VA contest website, top prize winners will receive $3 million and $1 million, respectively, while others will receive $250,000 and $100,000 for selected proposals.
"Every tool available must be used to eliminate veteran suicide," VA Secretary Denis McDonough stated in a press statement on Wednesday. "To fight this preventable problem, Mission Daybreak is nurturing solutions across a broad range of focus areas."
For the VA and the military, the issue of suicide has been highly challenging, and both have worked for years to develop practical answers. A total of 6,261 veterans committed suicide in 2019.
According to Matt Miller, head of the VA's suicide prevention program office, the VA hopes that winning proposals would result in a 10% reduction in suicide deaths.
The VA is looking for suggestions in ten emphasis areas, including employing artificial intelligence or machine learning to evaluate digital data and online footprints to determine risk, improving the Veterans Crisis Line, and lowering the stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment.
Aside from lethal means safety, other priority areas include firearms suicide reduction, improving responses to veterans in crisis and supporting veterans in and after active-duty service.
The $20 million Mission Daybreak competition, according to Miller, will act as a "forum" for new ideas.
"We build an idea, a vision, of what we're looking for to promote the veterans' suicide prevention mission inside this industry," Miller explained.
Individuals, researchers, corporations, and advocacy groups are welcome to participate. Participants will submit concept papers to the Mission Daybreak website in the first phase of the initiative, which will include solutions to one or more focus areas to reduce veteran suicides drastically.