There is hope. Resources are available and treatment can work. Suicide is preventable. The suicide rate among Veterans in 2019 was 52% higher than non-Veteran adults in the U.S., according to the 2021 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report. As part of their ongoing efforts to combat this national crisis, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Ad Council are today launching a new national campaign: “Don’t Wait, Reach Out.” The public service advertisements (PSAs) encourage Veterans to reach out for help before their challenges become overwhelming, directing audiences to VA.gov/Reach, a new website with comprehensive resources for Veterans.
“Suicide is preventable. Destigmatizing the act of reaching out for help plays an important role in our public health approach to preventing suicide for Veterans and their families,” said Secretary Denis McDonough, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Through this campaign, we can spread hope that Veterans and all of us can survive emotional, difficult crises in life. That includes taking simple, straightforward actions to check on each other, and to encourage seeking help. Don’t Wait, Reach Out.”
“Veterans are trained to be resilient. Stigma can make it hard to reach out for help,” said Lisa Sherman, President and CEO of the Ad Council. “Our hope is that Veterans who are struggling see themselves and their challenges reflected in this campaign, and that we inspire them to reach out before life gets to a boiling point.”
The PSA strategy, created pro bono by creative agency TBWA\Chiat\Day NY, was informed by extensive research and included Veterans in the production. The TV ads depict a diverse range of Veterans—all portrayed by real Veterans—approaching their “boiling point” in a variety of stressful scenarios, and the relief that follows once they reach out for help.
“I’m a Marine Corps Veteran, and I’ve struggled with suicidal ideation, depression, anxiety, and PTSD for years. Reaching out has saved my life,” said Wes Rhodes, Associate Copywriter for TBWA\Chiat\Day New York. “Veterans struggle with the same things that all humans do, so please share your stories and your struggles. Reach out for support early and often. Something as simple as checking in on each other can be a lifesaving act.”
All campaign PSAs direct audiences to VA.gov/Reach, a website that makes it easier for Veterans to find guidance and support services from across the full breadth of the VA’s offerings. The user-friendly experience invites Veterans to identify the specific life challenges they may be struggling with—like trouble sleeping, or financial stress—then serves up the appropriate resources for their unique needs. The website was designed by Viget, a digital innovation agency, and developed by Reingold, an award-winning full-service communications firm.
“We all benefit from connecting with each other and seeking help when we need it. Veterans embody service to others, by protecting all of us through their service,” said Brian Williams, Viget Co-Founder and CEO. “We’re thankful for the opportunity to partner with the VA and the Ad Council to provide Veterans with an intuitive, personalized experience to help them reach out to specific resources in times of need.”
The campaign is part of VA’s 10-year strategy to end Veteran suicide through a comprehensive, public health approach. According to VA’s 2021 National Suicide Prevention Annual Report:
- Although the Veteran suicide rate significantly and meaningfully decreased in 2019, the suicide rate among Veterans in 2019 was 52.3% higher than for non-Veteran U.S. adults. This is a decrease from its previous high of greater than 60%, but much more work remains.
- Firearms were involved in 69.2% of Veteran suicides in 2019, compared to 47.9% of non-Veteran adult suicides.
The “Don’t Wait, Reach Out” PSAs will appear nationwide in time and space donated by the media, across all advertising formats: broadcast, radio, digital, social, out-of-home and print. Reddit, Yahoo! and YouTube are among the media platforms that have committed to supporting the campaign. The PSAs will also be distributed to the Ad Council’s network of over 1,850 broadcast TV stations and 9,500 radio stations across the country.
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 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.