September 1, 2014

Campaign seeks to prevent suicides among veterans (AUDIO)

Nebraska has launched an effort to reduce the number of veterans who take their own life.

A program entitled “Not One More Life” seeks to raise awareness about veteran suicides and help combat it.

Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs Director John Hilgert says everyone who has attended a military funeral knows the cost of war.

“We know that some pay the ultimate price. Unfortunately, some pay that ultimate price long after the battle is over,” Hilgert tells a news conference.

The “Not One More Life” campaign focuses on the risk of emotional issues that could lead to suicide. The campaign will include bumper stickers and radio public service announcements promoting the crisis line, 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

It also seeks to increase discussion and awareness of the emotional issues that lead to suicide.

The campaign is sponsored by Nebraska Chapter 7 of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and The Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Nebraska Broadcasters Association will make the PSAs available to their members throughout the state. Additionally, the “Not One More Life” slogan will be printed on 5,000 bumper stickers, sponsored by DAV. The bumper stickers list the nationwide crisis line, 1-800-273-8255, and remind callers to “Press 1 for Veterans.” The bumper stickers will be available through the County Veteran Service Officers, serving in all 93 counties.

The crisis line is available to veterans as well as their friends and families.

The Veterans Affairs Department reports that 22% of all suicides in the United States are committed by veterans. It is estimated that between 18 to 22 veterans commit suicides each day.

Hilgert says no one set of veterans battle depression; it can affect any veteran.

“Over two-thirds of our suicides of our veterans come from veterans who are 50 years of age and older,” according to Hilgert. “My friends, some people have been fighting their battles for an awful long time.”

State Adjutant General Judd Lyons says the Nebraska National Guard is not immune to the problem.

“Our key message to our service members in the National Guard is that it’s not a sign of weakness to seek help. It’s in fact a sign of strength,” Lyons says. “So, when we have men and women who are struggling with issues that are beyond their ability to cope with, we want them to know and be comfortable in coming forward and seeking help and seeking assistance.”

Those interesting in the campaign or with questions are encouraged to call the Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs at 402-471-2458.

Not One More Life bumper sticker

AUDIO: “Not One More Life” news conference. [13:15]