Maya Alleruzzo/AP

VA Looks to Ads to Help Suicidal Veterans

July 18, 2008 09:13 AM
by Josh Katz
The VA is planning a pilot, three-month-long suicide prevention public service campaign in Washington, D.C., underscoring the mental health struggles faced by vets.

30-Second Summary

The Department of Veterans Affairs ended its “self-imposed ban against television advertising” on July 15 by revealing its public service announcement at a congressional hearing. In it, actor Gary Sinise, who played a disabled Vietnam soldier in the movie “Forrest Gump,” encouraged veterans to seek help for mental illness.

The VA will proceed with its campaign on July 21, “which will include a series of bus advertisements as well as more than 300 ads inside Washington, D.C., commuter trains and at metro train stations,” according to CBS News. If the campaign is successful, the VA will expand it throughout the country.

The campaign is part of the VA’s response to a surge in mental health problems experienced by soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In April, a Rand Corp. survey found that one-fifth of the soldiers who have served in those countries, or about 300,000 people, have reported mental health problems. Only about half of them have pursued treatment.

In May, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates acknowledged that the military health care system had failed vets at times, and said he would instate changes.

Members of Congress have expressed concern about the data, and last month the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee passed a bill permitting the VA to use paid advertising.

In an op-ed published July 15, Dr. Jeffrey A. Lieberman of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons stressed the necessity of improving veteran mental health services, and said the stigma associated with seeking help had to be removed.

Headline Link: ‘VA To Test Suicide Public Service Ads’

Background: Military vets face mental health problems

Opinion & Analysis: ‘Returning troops need full mental health services’

Related Topics: Video game helps soldiers cope; rural health services for vets

Reference: Mental health guide


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