EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- The Veterans Administration has launched a new effort in an effort to encourage vets to get mental support. The goal is to get veterans to help themselves, the way they would help their battle buddies.
U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough says that there is "nothing more important to the VA than ending Veteran suicide — and a key part of that effort is encouraging and normalizing the act of reaching out for support."
These ads are hitting TV screens, radio airwaves and print pages this month as part of Suicide Prevention Month. The VA says that in 2020 there were more than 6,100 service member suicides -- an average of 16 a day. There was a slight drop in suicide numbers from 2019 to 2020.
These new PSAs are the latest step in the VA's "Don't Wait. Reach Out." campaign for those who serve to look into the support options available to them. One of those options is a page through the VA which offers a list of resource options for service members of all types.
There are also a number of options available here in the Borderland:
- 988: The National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline - Anyone can contact the Crisis line through phone, text or message any time, for any mental distress.
- Veterans can also text 838255
- The 988 line has a dedicated Veterans Crisis Line by Pressing 1 after dialing 988
- A chatline through the VA is available at this link
- EHN Crisis Hotline: (915-779-1800) - Staffed by locals, and a constant resource in El Paso, Emergence Health Network's hotline has specialists ready to hear you out.
- Emergence Health Network.org - EHN is able to offer many different forms of support for mental health and wellness. From pet therapy to addiction treatment.
- NAMI El Paso - As part of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, there are some options listed on their website for support and connection. NAMI is focused on providing support to anyone with any sort of mental illness.
Through the Don't Wait campaign, Secretary McDonough hopes that veterans can pull 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."
The number of veteran suicides were 57% higher than non-veterans in 2020, according to the VA's report last year.
These PSAs were directed by Kathryn Bigelow, an Academy Award winner and the director of the Hurt Locker. The Ad Council says that they were created pro bono by the advertising firm GSD&M.
Avery Martinez covers mental health in the Borderland as part of ABC-7’s Be Mindful initiative. He is also a Report for America corps member. RFA places talented, emerging journalists in newsrooms like ABC-7’s to report on under-covered issues and communities. Report for America is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, an award-winning nonprofit journalism organization dedicated to rebuilding journalism from the ground up.