The Department of Veterans Affairs and Johnson & Johnson have released a new public service announcement aimed at combating the high rate of veteran suicides in the United States.
“A handshake, a phone call, a simple gesture make a big difference to a veteran in crisis,” Tom Hanks says in his narration of the video, which was published to Johnson & Johnson’s YouTube channel.
In the United States, an average of 20 veterans a day commit suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new video calls on the American public to take action by reaching out to veterans who may be in crisis.
“The issue of suicide is an American public health crisis, but among veterans, we know it‘s an even bigger issue. And so we’ve deemed reducing veterans suicide our highest clinical priority,” said Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin.
“That is why we have partnered with Johnson & Johnson and other organizations to encourage veterans, service members and their loved ones to seek out available mental health resources,” Shulkin said.
The public service announcement will be broadcast nationally leading up to Veterans Day, according to a press release.
The campaign slogan, “Be There for Veterans,” is intended to convey the message that Americans should work to connect with veterans during the times they’ve traditionally been isolated, Shulkin said.
“Instead of sitting back and going ‘I don’t know what to do,’ ... reach out to them and say that you are there for them,” Shulkin said. “No veteran should be alone and suffering.”
In addition to this campaign, Johnson & Johnson hires, mentors, counsels and trains veterans in an effort to help integrate them into the economy when they leave the service, said Alex Gorsky, the company’s chairman and CEO.
“The fact that 20 veterans a day are committing suicide is completely unacceptable,” Gorsky said. “We need to make sure we‘re doing everything in our power, from new therapies, getting communities, getting families all working together to stop this tragedy from happening.”
By using #BeThere on social media, and visiting www.BeThereforVeterans.com, the public is encouraged to join in on the conversation and learn more about how to reach out to veterans in their communities.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.