Each day 20 veterans die from suicide in the United States.
To help combat that statistic, Johnson & Johnson (No. 5 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have joined forces to launch the new #BeThere campaign aimed at supporting active and retired service members in need of help and resources.
"Championing the health and well-being of veterans is a priority for Johnson & Johnson—and one that dates as far back as the 1898 Spanish-American War, when the company supported employees while they served," says Alex Gorsky, Chairman and CEO, Johnson & Johnson.
"We are continuing this legacy today through a new employee benefit that provides paid time off after deployment, and our partnership with the VA on the #BeThere campaign, which highlights the importance of engaging our communities to help support veterans and returning service members who may be struggling with the transition back home," adds Gorsky. "I'm confident that, together, we can give back to the brave men and women who have given so much to our country."
The first step is learning to recognize and reach out to people who may be suffering silently in communities across the country. And there's no better time to start than this month, which the White House just proclaimed Veterans and Military Families Month.
"Suicide prevention is everyone's responsibility and everyone can play a part, whether it's a hand on a shoulder, an open ear at the right time or assistance in finding the right mental and medical healthcare," says Harold Kudler, M.D., Acting Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Patient Care Svc., Veterans Health Administration. "The VA relies on the strength of its partners, and we thank Johnson & Johnson for its role in our suicide prevention efforts."
The Power of Being There
Veterans may grapple with suicidal thoughts for a variety of reasons. Still, "every veteran I've talked to has one thing in common: They feel like they don't have anyone to talk to about what they've been through," says John Musgrave, a Vietnam Marine veteran who now counsels current service members and returning veterans.
"We can help by being aware that the most disabling wounds have no visible scars, listening without judgment and showing gratitude—and that goes beyond saying 'Thank you for your service,' " he adds. "For these reasons, community outreach is essential. To lose young warriors to wounds that are untreated, well, that's criminal."
Together, we can make a difference and ensure no veteran is left behind even with such small gestures as sending a text message or bringing a home-cooked meal to a service member. The VA and its partners are also encouraging the public to join the conversation by using #BeThere on social media.
Veterans who are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide — and anyone who knows a veteran in crisis — can call the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential support at 800-273-8255 and press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat or text to 838255.