National Association of Broadcasters president Gordon Smith joined with Army Secretary John McHugh, his co-chair at the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, in Washington Monday to unveil a revamped suicide prevention strategy including a new public service campaign, Side by Side, to emphasize the role family and friends can play in supporting vets and others in crisis.
That strategy includes a multiplatform approach: a suicide prevention hotline (1-800-273-8255, press 1); a website, veteranscrisisline.net; and a text message (838255). It also includes trying to de-stigmatize health-seeking behavior in the workplace.
"Nothing is more critical to our success than communication," said McHugh, who thanked Smith for helping put a human face on the crisis, and said that he strived to have a "small part" of the passion Smith had shown in trying to make a difference and put a human face on statistics. Smith lost a child to suicide and has since worked to help remove the stigma from mental illness.
NAB will make the spots available to all its members, TV and radio, though it will be up to each station to decide about carriage. "We're optimistic that many stations will carry these," said an NAB spokesman.
This past June, NAB honored Glenn Close with the National Association of Broadcasters Leadership Award for her fight against discrimination and stigmatization of mental illness through her Bring Change 2 Mind campaign.
Dr. Regina Benjamin, U.S. Surgeon General, said Monday that some 200,000 people commit suicide in America each year, and it is "time to turn the conversation to prevention" and intervention, including "fostering public dialog," and reducing shame, prejudice and silence.