Today, Gov. Dave Heineman was joined by veteran and military leaders to kick-off Nebraska's "Not One More Life" campaign to bring public awareness for help that is available to at risk veterans. The "Not One More Life" campaign is specifically focused on the risk of emotional issues that could result in suicide. The campaign will include bumper stickers promoting crisis line, 1-800-273-TALK, and radio public service announcements.
"As veterans, we have a commitment to serving our country, as well as looking out for one another," said Gov. Dave Heineman, an Army veteran. "The well-being and safety of those who have served our country and their families is a high priority, and we must make every effort to avoid losing even one more life. Awareness that fellow-veterans and family members care, and that help is always available, is important for helping veterans in need of support."
The "Not One More Life" campaign is made possible through a partnership between Nebraska Chapter 7 of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and The Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs. The Governor was joined for the kick-off event by Major General Judd Lyons, Adjutant General of the Nebraska National Guard; John Hilgert, Director of the Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs; DAV State Adjutant, Jim Shuey and DAV National Area Supervisor John Kleindienst; Marty Riemenschneider of the Nebraska Broadcasters Association, as well as veterans representing a wide variety of Nebraska veteran and military groups, showing wide support for this campaign.
""Not One More Life' is a rallying cry by those of us who have served to look out for each other. This is a lesson taught from day one by the military - to be a good battle buddy and watch each other's back. "Not One More Life' is a reminder that wars are timeless because Veterans carry scars forever, and we encourage everyone to be vigilant and watch over those at risk," said Dir. Hilgert.
The "Not One More Life" campaign seeks to increase discussion and awareness of the issues that can lead to suicide. The radio public service announcements are available for download at the governor's website: www.governor.nebraska.gov and the Department of Veterans Affairs: www.veterans.nebraska.gov. The Nebraska Broadcasters Association will make the PSAs available to their members throughout the state.
Additionally, the "Not One More Life" slogan will be printed on 5000 bumper stickers, sponsored by DAV. The bumper stickers list the nationwide crisis line, 1-800-273-8255, and remind callers to "Press 1 for Veterans." The crisis line is available to Veterans, their friends and families and anyone who is at risk of hurting themselves or others. The bumper stickers will be distributed to County Veteran Service Officers who serve veterans in all 93 counties. DAV will distribute bumper stickers to disabled veterans in Nebraska.
"As a chapter of the DAV, we feel that if this bumper sticker can prevent just one person from taking their life, than we have answered the call to stand-up and assist a veteran in need," said DAV National Area Supervisor John Kleindienst.
According to a recent report on suicide prevention and mental health services by the federal Veterans Affairs Department, nationally, veterans make up 22% of all suicides in the U.S., and that startling figure might be underestimated because of difficulty in determining veterans' status.
Nationally, there are approximately 18 to 22 veteran suicides per day. Two-thirds of veterans who commit suicide are age 50 or older. Twenty percent are under age 40, and 3 percent are under 30. While Nebraska specific statistics are not available, nationally, the suicide rate among the general population is 12.4 per 100,000 people while the military rate is 18.3 per 100,000. The rate for veterans enrolled in Veterans Affairs healthcare is about 36 per 100,000 people.
"This is an issue that we've been working to address as a National Guard organization," said Major General Judd Lyons. "Our key message to our service members and veterans is that it is a sign of strength to seek help."
"We also realize it takes a team effort. For our veterans' families and the community at large, you play an important role. You are in a position to notice when a veteran begins to show signs that he or she is struggling or considering suicide. Please assist us in getting these veterans the help that they need so that not one more life is lost to suicide."
Those interesting in the campaign or with questions may call the Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs at 402-471-2458.