Mission Daybreak is accelerating innovative solutions to reduce Veteran suicides.

An urgent need

Suicide is a serious public health problem that affects communities everywhere. In 2021, more than 48,000 American adults died from suicide — including 6,392 U.S. Veterans. While suicide can affect all Americans, it has a disproportionate impact on the Veteran community.

Suicide prevention is a complex problem, with a multitude of risk and protective factors that affect every individual differently — and the unique nature of the Veteran experience can often make Veterans particularly vulnerable. To be effective, prevention solutions must meet individuals where they are, rather than take a one-size-fits-all approach. As Veterans reflect the diversity of the U.S. population, new solutions and interventions that offer healing and recovery to Veterans will also support suicide prevention efforts for all communities.

An audacious goal

Reducing Veteran suicides is a top clinical priority for VA. That’s why VA launched the Mission Daybreak grand challenge in 2022, which awarded $20 million to suicide prevention solutions that can meet the diverse needs of Veterans—and continues to support promising teams.

An opportunity to serve those who have served

Hope serves as an anchor for people in crisis and those who want to help, and Mission Daybreak offers a chance to translate hope into action. By bringing fresh thinking, outside perspectives, and innovative concepts to suicide prevention, we can serve those who have served and provide meaningful support.

Suicide has no single cause, and no single strategy can end Veteran suicide. That’s why Mission Daybreak is supporting potential solutions across a broad spectrum of focus areas, reflecting the goals of the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide:

  • Develop, implement, and monitor effective programs that promote wellness and prevent Veteran suicide and related behaviors.
  • Promote efforts to reduce access to lethal means of suicide among Veterans with identified suicide risk.
  • Promote and implement effective clinical and professional practices for assessing and treating Veterans identified as being at risk for suicidal behaviors.
  • Implement community-based strategies to help prevent further suicides.
  • Increase the timeliness and usefulness of national surveillance systems relevant to preventing Veteran suicide and improve the ability to collect, analyze, and use this information for action.
  • Refine and expand the use of predictive analytics for at-risk Veterans and for known upstream risks such as opioid use.

How the grand challenge unfolded

VA launched the multiphase, $20 million grand challenge in May 2022, receiving more than 1,300 concept submissions in Phase 1 from Veterans, Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), community-based organizations, health tech companies, startups, and universities. A multidisciplinary judging panel — representing a diversity of perspectives, from Veterans and clinicians to social workers and technical experts — selected 30 finalists to receive $250,000 and advance to Phase 2. In addition, 10 Promise Award winners each received $100,000.  

In Phase 2, the 30 finalists participated in an eight-week accelerator designed to help them develop ambitious but achievable roadmaps for prototyping, iteration, testing/validation, and evaluation. As part of the accelerator, finalists had access to:

  • Webinars, panels, and Q&A sessions. Virtual interactive learning modules from experts focusing on topics relevant to solution refinement and planning.
  • Mentorship. Access to expert mentors, who answered questions and provided feedback throughout the accelerator.
  • Technology partner support. Access to resources such as platform credits and technical assistance from partners, including Microsoft and Amazon.
  • Exclusive datasets. Access to custom synthetic VA datasets to strengthen and refine solutions.
  • Networking opportunities. Opportunities to collaborate, share expertise, and learn from fellow cohort members.

Following the accelerator, the judging panel recommended 10 winners based on the official evaluation criteria. Two first-place winners each received $3 million, three second-place winners each received $1 million, and five third-place winners each received $500,000. Meet the award recipients and learn more about their solutions

For more information, review the grand challenge timeline, FAQ, and rules, terms, and conditions.

What’s next for Mission Daybreak

Building off the work that began with the grand challenge, Mission Daybreak continues to bring Veterans, researchers, technologists, advocates, healthcare providers, health innovators, and service members together to collaborate and advance suicide prevention solutions.

Through 2023 and into 2024, teams are participating in a range of conferences and events, meeting with Veterans, innovators, and funders. 

Coming together as a community is critical to reducing Veteran suicides. Mission Daybreak is building an ecosystem of support for innovators and their solutions by fostering further collaboration and partnerships with Veterans, Veteran families and caregivers, Veterans Service Organizations, healthcare providers, funders, government, and advocacy organizations. Through Mission Daybreak, VA is now providing promising solutions with additional technical assistance, including human-centered design and learning, as well as piloting opportunities. 

As Mission Daybreak drives forward, we’re excited to share news and opportunities to engage with teams. Sign up for the newsletter to receive the latest stories on Mission Daybreak’s progress.

Are you a Veteran having thoughts of suicide or concerned about one?
Contact the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential 24/7 support: Dial 988 then press 1, text to 838255, or chat online.