VA, the White House, and the Surgeon General have partnered with the Entertainment Industries Council (EIC) to provide safe message guidelines and other resources to reference when writing about suicide, Veterans, combat trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder and/or mental illness.
Recently, Dr. Keita Franklin, executive director for suicide prevention in VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention (OMHSP), joined U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams and Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) James Carroll for an open forum with leading entertainment industry content creators, standards and practices experts, and social impact teams.
“We, as a nation, must continuously look for ways to care for and honor our Veterans,” said Dr. Franklin. “Collaboration with the entertainment industry affords us a wonderful opportunity to reach Veterans and their families in new and innovative ways–with targeted messages of hope. We, at the Department of Veteran Affairs, are excited to partner with EIC to put these unique outreach opportunities into practice.”
Facilitated by EIC and hosted by Viacom, the event opened communication between subject matter experts and storytellers as they discussed the importance of depicting accurate and responsible stories of suicide, drug addiction and mental health issues across entertainment content.
Questions from entertainment industry members for the panelists included the impact of recently popular television shows such as “13 Reasons Why” and “A Million Little Things.”
“The popularity of these shows presents more than a creative opportunity,” said Dr. Franklin. “It’s an opportunity to reach millions of people to reduce stigma and inspire help-seeking behaviors. Research shows a significant correlation between the release of a show that depicts suicide and an increase in both suicide rates and call volume to help lines. We just want creators to think about this impact, work with us to depict it without sensationalizing it, balance it with stories of hope and recovery, and connect the stories with resources for help for those who need it.”
Surgeon General Adams also informed the audience that suicide and substance use disorder are often co-occuring conditions, and provided a quick demonstration of how naloxone can save lives that would otherwise be lost to opioid overdose.
Director Carroll reinforced that although we hear about the unacceptable number of deaths from opioids, methamphetamines and cocaine deaths are also on the rise in some parts of the country. All the panelists emphasized the effectiveness of publicizing key resources and tools for audiences, including help lines such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK; Press 1 for Veterans).
In addition to Viacom participants in attendance at the New York headquarters and streamed in from Los Angeles, representatives from Fox, NBCUniversal and YouTube also participated in the informative discussion.
“Through the powerful medium of entertainment, we can bring to life important stories about addiction and suicide to better educate audiences about these complex health issues, reduce public stigma and instill the message of hope that comes with treatment and recovery,” said Marie Gallo Dyak, president and CEO of EIC.
VA will continue to partner with EIC to provide expertise to content creators to address their specific audiences.
To learn more about VA’s suicide prevention program, read the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide, which provides a framework for identifying priorities, organizing efforts and contributing to a national focus on Veteran suicide prevention.
The health and well-being of our nation’s Veterans and former service members is VA’s highest priority. Guided by data and research, VA is working with partners, Veterans’ family members and friends, and the community to ensure that Veterans and former service members get the right care whenever they need it. To learn about the resources available for Veterans and how you can #BeThere as a VA employee, family member, friend, community partner or clinician, visit www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/resources.asp.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.
Aimee Johnson is the program coordinator for suicide prevention in VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.