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New Veteran suicide prevention PSA to air Memorial Day


Approximately 135 people are affected by each suicide within the military community according to Blue Star Families. Blue Star Families (BSF) will host a Veteran suicide prevention PSA campaign titled Combat the Silence in Montgomery and Selma. These two locations are based on military population density and mental health demands. Once it airs, the first PSA will be publicly available on BSF’s website.

The PSAs will illustrate the importance of intervention during a mental health crisis. Each PSA encourages families to register for Blue Star Support Circles. Blue Star Support Circles train military families, Veterans, peers, and service members to identify and intervene during mental health crises.

Kali Hoffman is the campaign lead for the Combat the Silence campaign. She says this campaign is about providing resources and due to being funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Staff Sergeant Parker Gordon Fox Suicide Prevention Grant Program, they don’t have to worry about fundraisers.

“It's strictly providing resources to people who need them the most, and these are military families. So not just Veterans, but their family, their friends, their peers, and their supporters are all learning how to recognize the signs of suicide and how to prevent suicide in a safe manner,” Hoffman said.

Facts according to a 2022 Blue Star Families report:

· 20% of active-duty family respondents experienced suicidal thoughts or attempts in the past year.

· Nearly one-quarter of active-duty family respondents expressed a desire to receive mental health care but currently do not.

· 1 in 5 active-duty family respondents reported instances of adult friends or family members experiencing suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, or succumbing to suicide between 2021 and 2022.

· Firearms are the most common method used in Veteran suicides — with a 90% fatality rate. BSSC addresses this issue through its partnership with PsychArmor, which provides training and lockboxes and gun safes at no cost to participants in the cohort.

Active duty military families wanting help with mental health services but not seeking it along with the staggering suicide rates is a key point for this campaign.

“The most powerful part of the PSAs will be watching someone who is in a very domesticated situation, like sitting in the living room, or sitting in their bedroom. And watching how someone's mind can take them into a dark place, in which reality in your imagination, all appear to be the same,” Hoffman said. “That's what mental illness is, it's when our brain is sick, and we don't know what's real and what's not. And we are overcome by our thoughts. And that's the kind of imagery that you're going to get in the PSAs. We're going to see how hard it is and how real mental health issues are.”

Hoffman’s creative process in producing and writing the PSAs stems from hopelessness. However, the main message is to showcase that individuals aren’t alone in the process.

“I've experienced being the caregiver. I've experienced being the person suffering from a mental health issue in one way or another. And within all of those situations, I found that there's a profound sense of hopelessness. There's hopelessness as the caregiver like what I can only do so much. Hopelessness is the person who is suffering, like I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel, and that's something that you're going to see throughout the day,” Hoffman said.

There’s multiple resources within Blue Star Families to help loved ones that are transitioning in the military and people that are active duty in the military.

Information can be found here to join the Combat the Silence campaign. For those experiencing crisis or know someone experiencing a crisis can dial or text 988 and press one. This line is exclusively dedicated to Veterans.

The second PSA will air September 1st to commemorate Suicide Prevention Month. The third PSA will air November 1st to coincide with Veteran’s Day.

Jolencia Jones is a graduate assistant at Alabama Public Radio. She joined APR in 2022. She graduated from The University of Alabama with a bachelor's degree in public relations. Over the past year, Jolencia has written a range of stories covering events throughout the state. When she's not working at APR, she's writing for 1956 Magazine and The Crimson White.

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