Finalists in $20 Million VA Suicide Prevention Competition Showcase Proposals

A website for US veterans to participate in traditional and fictional circles with real veterans. An app that locks the gun for a set amount of time or requires a second person to unlock it. It’s a virtual reality headset for veterans on both sides of the justice system — guards and inmates — to use when they’re sad or upset.

These are just a few of the 30 proposals for veterans suicide prevention presented in the Washington, DC, office building on Friday during the finals of the competition of the Department of Veterans Affairs ‘ Mission Daybreak appealed to the judges in hopes of winning. up to $3 million and change their minds.

“There’s no one that’s not surprising to me, a lot of it comes from a unique perspective,” Matthew Miller, the VA’s director of suicide prevention, said in an interview with at Mission Daybreak Demo Day. “I’ve seen unique perspectives on how to kill security and firearms. I’ve seen unique perspectives and plans related to the Navajo Nation and Native American soldiers, unique applications of risk prediction and integration of biology. of ideas incorporated into VA-related plans.”

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The VA launched Mission Daybreak earlier this year with the goal of finding new perspectives and innovative ideas to combat the suicide epidemic, despite declining rates in recent years. still thousands of soldiers every year.

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A total of $20 million is up for grabs. The 30 finalists received $250,000 each, and the other 10 non-finalists received “Promise Awards” of $100,000 each.

Of the finalists, two will win the grand prize of $3 million, three runners-up will receive $1 million, and five third-place winners will receive $500,000.

The agency announced finalists last month, after which applications entered an “accelerated” phase for processing before Demo Day. Demo Day was not the only factor in deciding the winner, but it gave the contestants a chance to present themselves to the judges, and also to meet each other and present their ideas to other VA and Pentagon officials and congressional staff. others.

Like a school science fair, there is a table every Friday complete with videos and other equipment as judges walk around with clipboards to each person and hear the pitches.

One of the final options is Televeda, an online application that allows Native Americans to join a support group that integrates their culture and traditions. Their table was small, with only a small woven table runner and a bell tower, but it seemed like the people who attended it.

In addition to the limited mental health resources that are culturally aware of their culture, Native Americans have unique challenges that contribute to a higher suicide rate than the veteran population, including problems in the past, says Mayank Mishra, founder and chief technology officer of Televeda.

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“Other professionals … studying this population have made the same decision: Please incorporate their methods and techniques,” Mishra said. “However, that kind of ends up being an idea or a white paper, so we’re hoping here to present a first, scalable management plan that includes a custom web interface and a custom can be used publicly. -publicly using agnostic symbols such as storytelling and news circles.”

There are many gun safety applications, including Vara Safety, which was started by a gun safety company that relied on biometrics to access safety, and has developed an app that allows users to know that they are having trouble maintaining security for the fixed amount. of time. The app also allows users to change the two-way permission for opening the safe, with a feature that allows happy pictures and videos of loved ones to be displayed on the safe when open it.

There was also the Overwatch Project, which aims to train soldiers to talk to their old friends about gun safety. They attracted Demo Day attendees to their table with a unique hashtag: “JustFKNAsk.”

“It’s the ‘Don’t Let Friends Get Drunk’ model but, instead of alcohol and cars, we’re talking about guns and suicide,” said Casey Woods, executive director of the Overwatch Project. “So if you have a friend who is struggling, while you are there to support and help them, [you can ask] What’s with their guns, can you hold them, can you hold them?”

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Other projects being presented on Friday include BioMojo, which is developing a virtual reality program for prison guards and elderly inmates that can provide them with an AI therapist or design face to talk to. or protective features; Same Grain, which functions as a social networking site or dating app to match veterans with like-minded individuals to support each other or veterans with clinicians and other professionals; and Team DSS, which uses AI to help responders on the Veterans Crisis Line interpret callers’ emotions and needs.

Now the judges will dig through what they saw at Demo Day, and hopefully the winners will be announced at the end of the month. Even when one of the stores will be part of the VA will depend on contract terms, Miller said.

“In the last two years for the available data, [which] Not including Mission Daybreak interventions, we’ve seen a 10% reduction in soldier suicides, Miller said.

All 30 finalists shown can be found here.

— Rebecca Kheel can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @reporterkheel.

about: VA selects 30 programs for Suicide Prevention Program

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