M. David Rudd, a veteran and professor of psychology at the University of Memphis, told Newsweek that suicide "is the single most significant health concern among veterans today." "If you go back to the Vietnam War, the most significant health concern at the time was Agent Orange. Now it's suicide." According to official data, over 30,000 veterans have died by suicide between 2001 and 2019 - four times more than the number of those who died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The stigma stings most veterans today. The American Legion recently launched its Be the One campaign to encourage American Legion Family members, veterans, servicemembers and others to take action when they believe a veteran is at risk of suicide. Here are some answers to common questions about this new initiative:
Question: How did the Be the One initiative develop?
Answer: The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans service organization with more than 1.8 million members, is guided by its Four Pillars. Among those is the Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation pillar. At its core, the Legion’s mission is to enhance the well-being of America’s veterans, their families, our military and our communities by their devotion to mutual helpfulness.
Question: Why is this a priority right now?
Answer: Today, the No. 1 issue facing those who served is veteran suicide, according to the National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report. Each day, no fewer than 17 veterans die by suicide. That’s more than 6,000 each year. The rate of suicide for veterans is more than 50% higher than that of non-veteran adults. As the global war on terrorism continues, there will be more veterans facing mental-health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Question: What will the Be the One campaign achieve?
Answer: At its core, The American Legion is activating a national platform to end veteran suicide. The Be the One campaign will: Destigmatize asking for mental health support, creating opportunity for those with mental health issues to speak freely and get the support they need. Provide peer-to-peer support and resources in local communities. Deploy FDA-approved therapeutics for veterans to identify issues and find resources for support.
John Hacker, Suicide Awareness Team, John E. Jacobs American Legion Post 68