Editor’s note: This story is on the topic of suicide and mental health. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal ideations or a mental health crisis, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can offer resources and support at 1.800.273.Talk (8255)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – As September marks Suicide Prevention Month, a new effort from the Department of Veterans Affairs is aiming to reach veterans who may be struggling.

The Don’t Wait. Reach Out campaign — a partnership between the VA and the Ad Council — provides veterans feeling depressed, anxious, or isolated with educational resources and information on where to find help.

“To really advance in suicide prevention, yes, you need the clinical care, yes, you need good mental health care and access to it,” said Matthew Miller, a U.S. veteran and executive director of the VA Suicide Prevention program. “We also need to address a lot of life factors that people face – financial factors, housing factors, relationship issues – the kinds of things that you may not necessarily ‘treat’ in a clinical setting.”

He added, “our approach to suicide prevention really looks to advance clinical aspects but as well as those community those ecological perspectives.”

The campaign comes as research shows the suicide rate among veterans in 2020 was 57% higher than in non-veteran adults.

“I think it all starts with truly understanding the audience that you’re designing this work for. So, for us, that meant spending time talking to veterans to understand the barriers, the challenges, but importantly the motivators, you know, what could we say, how could we present this in a way that’s going to motivate someone to make them understand that they’re not alone and it’s okay to not be okay and to reach out,” said Heidi Arthur, chief campaign development officer.

Arthur explained that the campaign encourages veterans to reach out for help and know they’re not alone.

“It starts with normalizing the conversation and hearing from real veterans sharing their own experiences and the campaign is also built on the knowledge that there’s a culture, in a good way, service before self. A veteran is the first one to raise their hand, to step up to help their fellow veteran. But when they themselves are struggling, they don’t necessarily apply that to their own health and wellbeing,” Arthur said.