The White House and the VA launched a new national anti-suicide campaign this month with an emphasis on supporting veterans.
The REACH campaign is part of PREVENTS, the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicides, a three-year effort President Donald Trump created by executive order in March 2019. MOAA supports PREVENTS, and we called it a “much-needed call to action” in testimony delivered in Congress earlier this year.
Here’s what you need to know about the new campaign:
1. What is REACH? It’s both an awareness campaign and a call to action – and not just for veterans. VA states the mission is “to educate all Americans that suicide is preventable and to encourage them to REACH to those in need to provide hope. It also encourages people who are hurting to REACH to find help.”
2. Who is leading the charge? The president’s executive order created the PREVENTS Task Force, which includes leadership from VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. Its lead ambassador is Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence and mother of a Marine Corps officer.
“We owe it to [veterans] and all Americans to play a critical role in preventing suicide,” Pence said in a PREVENTS webinar July 8. “We’re facing an epidemic of suicide right now.”
[MOAA INTERVIEW: Second Lady Karen Pence on Helping Military Spouses Succeed]
3. What do the numbers say? Despite years of suicide prevention efforts across DoD, the data reveal a sustained challenge that needs more research and new solutions. REACH shares the following stats on its website:
- On average, 132 Americans die by suicide each day, accounting for 47,173 suicide deaths in 2017.
- The number of veteran suicides exceeded 6,000 each year from 2008-2017.
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among all ages and the second leading cause of death among those ages 10-34 in the United States.
4. Has COVID-19 affected efforts? If anything, the campaign is well-timed. A PREVENTS Roadmap summary released in June notes, “The long-term psychological stress resulting from the pandemic and the massive disruption to our mental health delivery system threatened the mental health of those already vulnerable and increased the likelihood that many more Americans would suffer — resulting in a possible increase in deaths by suicide.”
5. How can you get involved? Visit the REACH website, wearewithinreach.net. There you can sign up for campaign updates. You’re encouraged to use the hashtag #REACHnow to “tell your network, it’s time to REACH to prevent suicide.”
If you are struggling, or you are concerned about someone you know, please REACH out and call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (press 1 ), or chat online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/.