US government launches campaign to reduce high suicide rates

US government launches campaign to reduce high suicide rates

US government launches campaign to reduce high suicide rates

WASHINGTON — The federal government launched a broad national campaign Tuesday aimed at reducing high suicide rates, urging the public to reach out to others, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, and acknowledge daily stresses in people’s lives.

Known as REACH, the government campaign is the core part of a $53 million, two-year effort announced by President Donald Trump to reduce suicide, particularly among veterans.

Starting Wednesday, digital ads will hit the internet with the key message that “suicide is preventable” and that collective action not only by government but also by businesses, schools, nonprofits and faith-based organizations can overcome the stigma of discussing mental health and empower people to understand risk factors, stay connected with others and talk openly about problems.

“Working together, we can implement this road map and end this national tragedy of suicide,” said Vice-President Mike Pence’s wife, Karen Pence, a lead spokesperson for the government effort. She called it an opportune time, noting increased social distancing because of the coronavirus.

“All of us have been facing anxieties and isolation,” she said. “It’s OK to not be OK. … The best thing is to talk about it more, not less.”

“No one should be afraid to ask for help,” she added.

Trump established a federal task force last year to develop a way to lower veterans’ suicides. Currently, about 20 veterans, guardsmen and reservists die by suicide each day, about 1.5 times higher than those who have not served in the military. The government says about 14 of those 20 were not under the care of the Department of Veterans Affairs, pointing to a need for improved community outreach.

With the coronavirus still raging across communities, officials expressed hope that the message of suicide prevention can aid the public more widely, not just veterans.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who is helping the effort, stressed the need to stay connected by texting, emailing or, in the case of his kids, writing “old-fashioned letters to grandma and grandpa.” He described stigma against getting help as a much bigger public health threat than cigarettes or COVID-19.

“When we feel comfortable seeking help, and unless more people feel comfortable offering help without judgment, we’ll never reach those who need it the most,” he said.

Acknowledging the impact of the broader pandemic, Adams also offered a separate public service message: Wear a mask.

His public admonition comes as many governors are pushing for a national mandate on wearing masks. Trump has repeatedly declined to wear masks in public and recently held campaign-style events in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and the White House on the Fourth of July where he and many attendees went bare-faced.

“It’s not an impingement on your freedom,” Adams said, calling masks the No. 1 way to stem spread of COVID-19. “It actually increases your freedom and your choices because it lowers spread of the disease and increases the chances we will be able to open and stay open.”

“It actually will decrease that hopelessness. It will actually lower suicide rates,” he said.

Public health experts urged people to go to the website wearewithinreach.net and take a pledge “to reach and be part of the solution” to stem suicide. The website offers information on risk factors for suicide and ways people can get help.

“By having this conversation, we will save lives,” said Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, executive director of the suicide prevention effort.

Hope Yen, The Associated Press

suicide

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Three new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, Alberta under 10,000 active cases

The Central zone sits at 849 active cases, with 52 people in hospital and 10 in the ICU.

(File photo)
After several years in limbo, Parkland Manor to be torn down

Rimoka Housing Foundation has received funding and approval for the demolition

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 16 additional deaths Thursday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
No easing of Alberta’s COVID-19 measures Thursday, 678 new COVID-19 cases

The province also hit 1,500 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the Canadian government should consider sanctions on the U.S. if they refuse to reconsider the decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Keystone XL officially cancelled, Kenney vows to fight on

U.S. President Joe Biden cancelled the presidential permit for the pipeline on first day of office

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said province’s test positivity rate for COVID-19 is steadily declining. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
669 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta, 21 additional deaths

COVID-19 test positivity rate down to 4.5 per cent

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, updates media on the COVID-19 situation in Edmonton, Friday, March 20, 2020. Hinshaw says residents in long-term care and supportive living facilities will remain the priority as the province grapples with a looming slowdown in COVID-19 vaccine supply. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta long-term care residents remain priority in looming slowdown of COVID vaccine

There are 119 patients in intensive care and 1,463 people have died

Black Press File Photo
Maskwacis RCMP lay charges for attempted murder, kidnapping, and flight from police

Female victim remains in hospital in serious condition.

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
‘Gut punch’: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney blasts Biden on revoked Keystone XL permit

Kenney said he was upset the U.S. wouldn’t consult with Canada first before acting

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Prince Edward Island’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. A lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Almost non-existent’ cold and cough season: P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Calgary flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

(Photo submitted)
Community Futures brings back Social Media Challenge for 2021

This time the challenge is for non-profits and community groups

Lucas Berg, left, with the backpacks filled with essential items he donated to the Red Deer Mustard Seed Jan. 19, 2021. (Photo submitted)
Central Alberta teenager donates filled 20 backpacks to Red Deer Mustard Seed

Lucas Berg, 14, of Ponoka County says he ‘just wants to help people’

Most Read