September is suicide prevention month and a new set of public service advertisements, released by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Ad Council on Wednesday, are urging veterans who are struggling to reach out for help.
Part of the ongoing national Don’t Wait. Reach Out campaign that launched in 2021, the PSAs ask the simple question: “When was the last time you asked for help?”
“Through this ongoing campaign, we’re trying to spread awareness and hope that veterans — and all of us — can make it through tough times,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement. “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."
According to the 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, while the veteran suicide rate meaningfully decreased in both 2019 and 2020, the suicide rate among veterans in 2020 was 57% higher than non-veteran adults.
“Veterans, by nature and training, are deeply committed to helping others—and that means they often put service before self,” said Heidi Arthur, chief campaign development officer at the Ad Council.
The PSAs were created pro bono by advertising agency GSD&M. The ad features a diverse range of veterans reflecting on the difficulties of asking for support. Academy Award–winning film director and screenwriter Kathryn Bigelow, known for her work on films including “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” directed the PSA film.
The PSAs will appear across the country in time and space donated by the media and will be distributed to the Ad Council’s network of over 1,850 broadcast TV stations and 9,500 radio stations across the country.
The campaign is part of VA’s 10-year strategy to end veteran suicide through a comprehensive, public health approach, combining community prevention and clinical intervention strategies. The campaign is also part of the larger Ad Council Mental Health Initiative, a multi-year effort to change social norms and create a society that is more open, accepting and proactive when it comes to mental health.
Since first launching in October 2021, the campaign has garnered over $40 million in donated media support, resulting in more than 3.5 million visits to VA.gov/Reach. In addition to resources for veterans, the website also offers downloadable social media assets to help spread the word throughout Suicide Prevention Month and beyond.
Reach Julia LeDoux at Julia@connectingvets.com.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 988 and Press 1, text 838255 or chat online here.