Academy Award–Winning Director Kathryn Bigelow Helms Latest “Don’t Wait. Reach Out.” PSA Encouraging Veterans to Ask for Help Before They’re in Crisis
WASHINGTON DC, September 6, 2023 – Ahead of Suicide Prevention Month in September, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Ad Council today released new public service advertisements (PSAs) for their ongoing national campaign: “Don’t Wait. Reach Out.” Since 2021, the campaign has encouraged Veterans who are struggling to visit VA.gov/REACH, a comprehensive website designed to help them navigate the wide range of resources available.
The new PSAs are inspired by the insight that military Veterans are often the first to help others, but it can sometimes be tougher for Veterans to ask for help or accept it for themselves. The PSAs pose the simple question: “When was the last time you asked for help?”
“There is nothing more important to VA than ending Veteran suicide – and a key part of that effort is encouraging and normalizing the act of reaching out for support,” said Secretary Denis McDonough, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Through this ongoing campaign, we’re trying to spread awareness and hope that Veterans — and all of us — can make it through tough times. Suicide is preventable, and we can all play a role by checking in on each other and encouraging those who are struggling to seek the support they need. Don’t Wait. Reach Out.”
Although the Veteran suicide rate meaningfully decreased in both 2019 and 2020, the suicide rate among Veterans in 2020 was 57% higher than non-Veteran adults, according to the most recent available data from the 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report.
“Veterans, by nature and training, are deeply committed to helping others—and that means they often put service before self,” said Heidi Arthur, Chief Campaign Development Officer at the Ad Council. “Through this emotionally resonant new film, we are pleased to continue this critical partnership with the VA to encourage Veterans to offer themselves the same empathy and support that they would give to others.”
The PSAs were created pro bono by advertising agency GSD&M. The creative strategy was informed by extensive research with Veterans, and the ad features a diverse range of Veterans reflecting on the difficulties of asking for support. Academy Award–winning film director and screenwriter Kathryn Bigelow, known for her work on films including “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” directed the PSA film.
“It was an honor and a pleasure to work with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Ad Council on this piece,” said Bigelow. “There was a sincerity and integrity to their approach that made the experience gratifying.”
The “Don’t Wait. Reach Out” PSAs will appear across the country in time and space donated by the media, including broadcast, radio, digital, social, out-of-home and print formats Since the campaign’s inception, major media platforms have committed to uplifting this effort, including FOX, Meta, Reddit, Twitch, Yahoo! and YouTube. The PSAs will also be distributed to the Ad Council’s network of over 1,850 broadcast TV stations and 9,500 radio stations across the country.
“In this new iteration of the ‘Don’t Wait. Reach Out’ campaign, we emphasize the shared experiences of service and teamwork to remind Veterans that no battle is fought alone,” said Bo Bradbury, SVP/Managing Director at GSD&M. “Then, through one potentially life-changing question—‘When was the last time you asked for help?’—we want Veterans to realize that they can take the next step and reach out to a team that’s ready to help them.”
The “Don’t Wait. Reach Out.” campaign is part of VA’s 10-year strategy to end Veteran suicide through a comprehensive, public health approach, combining community prevention and clinical intervention strategies. The campaign is also part of the larger Ad Council Mental Health Initiative, a multi-year effort to change social norms and create a society that is more open, accepting and proactive when it comes to mental health.
Since first launching in October 2021, the campaign has garnered over $40 million in donated media support, resulting in more than 3.5 million visits to VA.gov/REACH. In addition to resources for Veterans, the website also offers downloadable social media assets for friends and loved ones of Veterans to help spread the word throughout Suicide Prevention Month and beyond.
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 988 and Press 1, text 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.
About the Ad Council
The Ad Council convenes creative storytellers to educate, unite and uplift audiences by opening hearts, inspiring action and accelerating change around the most pressing issues in America. Since the non-profit’s founding, the organization and its partners in advertising, media, marketing and tech have been behind some of the country’s most iconic social impact campaigns – Smokey Bear, A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste, Love Has No Labels, Tear the Paper Ceiling and many more. With a current focus on mental health, gun safety, the opioid epidemic, skill-based hiring and other critical issues, the Ad Council’s national campaigns encompass advertising and media content, ground game and community efforts, trusted messenger and influencer engagement, and employer programs, among other innovative strategies to move the needle on the most important issues of the day.
About the Ad Council’s Mental Health Initiative
In November 2022, the Ad Council launched a new Mental Health Initiative, uniting brands, marketers, media companies and nonprofits to address the mental health crisis throughout the U.S. at scale. With a founding investment from the Huntsman Mental Health Institute, the multi-year initiative aims to change social norms and create a society that is more open, accepting and proactive when it comes to mental health. To get involved in this effort, or find resources if you’re struggling with your mental health or know someone who needs help, visit adcouncil.org/mental-health.
Founded in 1971, GSD&M is an ideas-driven, fully integrated agency that has been building some of the world’s most iconic brands for the past 50 years. Headquartered in the music-loving, tech-driven, creative hub that is Austin, we exist to build First & Only brands—fueled by ideas that are the first of their kind for the only brands that can pull them off. These ideas stand out and distinguish brands in a sea of sameness and stretch marketing dollars by earning media, getting attention, and building devotion.
Our approach centers around finding and connecting with like-minded brands and teams that share a passion for the products, services and experiences that make a real difference in consumers’ lives. We are an agency team who believes that when you pay the price to really understand the issues and challenges facing a brand, the best ideas are created by doing things together that have never been done before.
The Ad Council
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs