The federal government launched a broad national campaign on Tuesday aimed at reducing high suicide rates.
Known as REACH, the government campaign is the core part of a $53 million, two-year effort announced by President Donald Trump to reduce suicide, particularly among veterans.
Starting Wednesday, digital ads will hit the internet with the message that “suicide is preventable” and that collective action not only by government but also by businesses, schools, nonprofits and faith-based organizations can overcome the stigma of discussing mental health and empower people to understand risk factors, stay connected with others and talk openly about problems.
“Working together, we can implement this road map and end this national tragedy of suicide,” according to Vice President Mike Pence’s wife, Karen Pence, a lead spokesperson for the government effort.
“All of us have been facing anxieties and isolation,” she said. “It’s OK to not be OK. … The best thing is to talk about it more, not less.”
“No one should be afraid to ask for help,” she added.
Trump established a federal task force last year to develop a way to lower the veteran suicide rate.
Currently, about 20 veterans, guardsmen and reservists die by suicide each day, about 1.5 more than those who have not served in the military. The government says about 14 of those 20 were not under the care of the Department of Veterans Affairs, pointing to a need for improved community outreach.
Officials expressed hope that the message of suicide prevention can aid the public more widely, not just veterans.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who is helping the effort, described stigma against getting help as a significant public health threat.
“When we feel comfortable seeking help, and unless more people feel comfortable offering help without judgment, we’ll never reach those who need it the most,” he said.
Public health officials urged people to go to the website wearewithinreach.net and take a pledge “to reach and be part of the solution” to stem suicide. The website offers information on risk factors for suicide and ways people can get help.
“By having this conversation, we will save lives,” Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, executive director of the suicide prevention effort, said.
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