Ahead of National Suicide Prevention Week, the Department of Veteran Affairs unveiled a new ad campaign to help tackle the stigma of seeking help. The ads, part of the VA’s “Don’t Wait. Reach Out” campaign, are directed by Academy Award winner Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Point Break).
Developed by the VA and the Ad Council, the new ad, titled “The Question,” is meant to address how veterans can struggle with asking for assistance or seeking professional help. The name comes from what’s asked on screen: “When was the last time you asked for help?” “The Question” comes in several versions. The full edition runs a little over two minutes, but there are shorter versions meant to air online or on social media.
The ads can be watched here:
“There is nothing more important to VA than ending Veteran suicide – and a key part of that effort is encouraging and normalizing the act of reaching out for support,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement on the new ads. “Through this ongoing campaign, we’re trying to spread awareness and hope that Veterans — and all of us — can make it through tough times. Suicide is preventable, and we can all play a role by checking in on each other and encouraging those who are struggling to seek the support they need. Don’t Wait. Reach Out.”
The PSAs will air online and on television, to more than 1,000 stations according to the Ad Council. Additionally it will be hosted on social media platforms such as Reddit, Twitch and YouTube.
Bigelow, who directed the military-related films The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, called the opportunity to work on the project an “honor.”
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National Suicide Prevention Week is Sept. 10-16. Veteran suicide remains a major issue, with the VA’s own records showing that more than 6,000 veterans committed suicide in 2020. The suicide rate for veterans is 57% higher than it is for civilian adults, according to the 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report. The Department of Veterans Affairs launched the “Don’t Wait. Reach Out” campaign in 2021, as part of its ongoing efforts to end veteran suicide. Other efforts have included offering gun locks to veterans and active-duty service members, as well as offering free mental health care, even if individuals aren’t enrolled in VA benefits.
The Department of Defense has been working on updating its own suicide prevention tools. This year the Pentagon implemented the Brandon Act, which allows troops to request a mental health evaluation without having to state a reason. As of September, every branch has enacted the policy.
More information is available at va.gov/reach.
If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States. Reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling or texting 988 and you’ll be connected to trained counselors.
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