WASHINGTON, D.C. — Officials at the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments have produced three public service announcements to help families and friends recognize the signs of potential suicide in veterans and service members.
The television announcements have aired since April on the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Network, and are 15, 30 and 60 seconds in length, officials said.
“A veteran or service member returning from a deployment, [whether] at home or abroad, is subject to a certain amount of distress,” said Jacqueline Garrick, the director of the Defense Suicide Prevention Office. “Regardless of where they served, there still are challenges when they return home, and we want to encourage them to seek help.”
And the two departments want to avert suicide by making sure families, friends and communities that surround veterans and service members are aware of the signs and symptoms of suicide, to get those at risk into treatment right away, Garrick said.
Garrick said seeking early treatment before the symptoms worsen is vital. Veterans and service members who stall treatment might do so for many reasons, such as fear of losing their jobs, “but they (should) see it as a way to save their careers,” she added.
“Seeking help is a sign of strength,” Garrick said. “They won’t lose their jobs.”
And avoiding help doesn’t make an individual’s concerns go away, she noted, and that’s where the TV announcements come in – to get the risk factor information out to families, friends and communities so they can encourage the individual to seek treatment.
“Letting problems get worse doesn’t make your career get better,” Garrick said. “The problems that are not dealt with are just going to manifest themselves and get bigger further down the road. We want to encourage veterans (and) service members to get help early, because it does make a difference in the long term.”
Suicide is not unique to the military, Garrick noted, adding that it is a societal issue, and successful treatment is easily available. For veterans and service members, Garrick said that help is available around the clock at http://www.suicideoutreach.org and through the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, which offer confidential chats and texting capabilities.
The website offers a wealth of resources, including the announcements, videos and a variety of information on how to seek help for service members, friends and families, Garrick said.
Garrick noted that in addition to the need for family members to help distressed service members and veterans, the family members themselves can be distressed, and should take advantage of the resources and seek help if that’s the case.
“By doing [the TV announcements], we’re expanding our message to outside the service members,” she added. “We want families and others to see and hear the (announcements) so everyone feels comfortable encouraging their service member to seek help.”