‘Don’t wait, reach out’: VA campaign hopes to prevent more veteran suicides

US Dept. of Veterans Affairs taking significant steps to encourage veterans to seek support if they are struggling with mental health

SAN ANTONIO – September is Suicide Prevention Month, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is taking significant steps to encourage veterans to seek support if they struggle with their mental health.

The National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report revealed a troubling increase in the suicide rate among veterans.

According to the report, the suicide rate for veterans was 57% greater than for non-veteran adults in 2020.

With the rate of suicide among veterans on the rise, Dr. Matthew Miller, executive director of suicide prevention for the VA, said it’s critical to spread the word that suicide is preventable.

“No better time than now to talk about the importance of reaching out, asking for help, and us providing solid resources for veterans,” said Miller.

Outside of diagnoses and disorders, Miller said day-to-day life things, such as relationships, financial pressures, and occupational concerns, can be some common stressors.

“It’s important to know that veterans can reach out when they’re experiencing these very common issues. They don’t need to be embarrassed. They don’t need to be ashamed, and they’re not going to take resources from other veterans by reaching out,” said Dr. Miller.

The VA has launched a new PSA for its ongoing campaign, “Don’t wait, reach out,” where vets who feel they are struggling are encouraged to visit the comprehensive website VA.gov/reach.

“What you’ll see when you go there is that the content is organized based on emotions and feelings. You know, if I’m feeling isolated, I’m feeling anxious, I’m feeling depressed or circumstances, you know, issues with jobs, transitions, relationships, divorce, housing, you know, the real-life circumstances that are presenting enormous challenges that could seem overwhelming,” said Heidi Arthur, chief campaign development officer of Ad Council.

Once you click on an emotion or circumstance, you’re connected with education, information, and direct access to resources available through the VA.

“There’s navigation by feelings and situation, not by diagnosis or disorder. I think that’s meaningful to veterans,” said Miller.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health, visit www.VA.gov/reach or call the Veterans Crisis Line by dialing 988 and pressing 1 for 24/7 confidential crisis support. You can also text 838255.

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About the Authors:

Jonathan Cotto is a reporter for KSAT’s Good Morning San Antonio. He’s a bilingual award-winning news reporter and he joined KSAT in 2021. Before coming to San Antonio, Cotto was reporting along the U.S.-Mexico border in South Texas. He’s a veteran of the United States Navy.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.