Mission Daybreak, formerly known as the Suicide Prevention Grand Challenge, is a $20 million grand challenge to reduce Veteran suicides. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs called on innovators to develop suicide prevention solutions that meet the diverse needs of Veterans.

An urgent need

Suicide is a serious public health problem that affects communities everywhere. In 2019, more than 45,000 American adults died from suicide — including 6,261 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.

Suicide is preventable, and we all have a part to play. A diversity of solutions will only be possible if a diversity of solvers — including Veterans, researchers, technologists, advocates, clinicians, health innovators, and service members — answer the call to collaborate and share their expertise. 

An audacious goal

Preventing Veteran suicides is a top clinical priority for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Mission Daybreak is part of VA’s 10-year strategy to end Veteran suicide through a comprehensive, public health approach. 

Mission Daybreak builds on VA’s long history of advancing health innovation to create an entire ecosystem of support for innovators and their solutions. The challenge offered $20 million in non-dilutive funding, as well as non-monetary resources that included data, research, mentorship, educational webinars, and partnership opportunities. As the nation’s largest integrated healthcare system, VA is leveraging expertise from private-sector, nonprofit, and government collaborators to support this ambitious mission.

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 fostered solutions across a broad spectrum of focus areas:

  • Utilizing digital footprint data from active and passive sources.
  • Creating improved access to and efficiency of Veterans Crisis Line (VCL) services through technological innovations.
  • Preventing firearm suicides and enhancing lethal means safety.
  • Reaching all Veterans in need with right-care, right-time, and right-place solutions.
  • Improving community resilience and connection. 
  • Incorporating family and community into Veteran well-being. 
  • Supporting the transition from military service to civilian life. 
  • Addressing social determinants of health and wellbeing.
  • Reducing barriers to asking for help. 
  • Other innovative solutions, focused on areas not specified above. 

How the challenge will unfold

Phase 1: Open submissions

In the first phase, Mission Daybreak invited all eligible solvers — including Veterans, researchers, industry, advocates, clinicians, and health innovators — to submit detailed concepts. Proposed solutions sought to significantly reduce Veteran suicides by addressing one or more of the challenge focus areas.

  • Phase 1 commenced with a series of publicly available webinars, including an information session on challenge details, an exploration of Veteran needs, and a discussion on using technology and data to develop high-impact solutions.
  • Additional challenge resources were available to all solvers throughout Phase 1. Innovators were also encouraged to join the Mission Daybreak solver community.
  • Each solver submitted a 10-page concept paper that describes a proposed solution, its impact on specific Veteran communities, an evidence framework, an implementation plan, team expertise, and any additional resources needed to develop and scale the solution. 
  • ​​All submissions were completed using the Phase 1 form and submitted by 4:59 p.m. EDT on July 8, 2022.
  • Expert reviewers and a multidisciplinary panel of judges assessed submissions according to Phase 1 evaluation criteria. 
  • Phase 1 awarded $8.5 million in prizes: 30 finalists each received $250,000 and advanced to Phase 2, where they will gain exclusive access to accelerator resources. An additional 10 teams each received a Promise Award of $100,000. 

Phase 2: Accelerator

During the second phase of the challenge, the 30 finalist teams joined an eight-week virtual accelerator, which offered tailored support and resources as they advanced their solutions.

  • Accelerator resources included access to exclusive data sets, networking opportunities, mentorship, and other tailored resources.
  • Each finalist’s refined solution needed to demonstrate progress since Phase 1 and include an ambitious yet achievable roadmap for prototyping, iteration, testing/validation, and evaluation.
  • Final submissions were due by 4:59 p.m. EDT on October 28, 2022. 
  • After final submissions, finalists presented their refined solutions at Demo Day, a live pitch event in November 2022. The event included an opportunity for Mission Daybreak finalists to meet each other in person. Demo Day also featured a closed-group question-and-answer session with judges; presentations to stakeholders, investors, and partners; and time for networking. 
  • Following Demo Day, judges evaluated submissions according to Phase 2 evaluation criteria. 
  • Phase 2 awarded $11.5 million in prizes: 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.

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.