How a coalition of organizations is helping to Face the Fight

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(BPT) - Military veterans embody the strength of our nation. And while the overwhelming majority of those who have served our country are thriving, we must confront the fact that more than 125,000 veterans have died by suicide since 2001, driven by a veteran suicide rate that is nearly twice that of the general population.

Veteran suicide is a major, yet misunderstood issue that needs greater attention and resources. This complex challenge is influenced by multiple factors such as financial insecurity, trouble finding or keeping a job, alcohol or drug abuse, mental health conditions, social isolation and struggles associated with transitioning from military to civilian life.

The good news is that there are interventions proven effective at reducing veteran suicide risk and driving positive outcomes — and progress has been made through research and advocacy done by public health agencies and organizations like the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

However, in recent years, it has become clear that there is a need for a movement to activate and energize private organizations to do more in raising awareness and resources to address this critical issue. Enter: Face the Fight™.

“Suicide prevention is complex — it’s a national crisis — and no single organization can take it on alone,” said Lindsey O’Neill, chief communications and corporate responsibility officer at USAA, which founded Face the Fight. “At USAA, our members and our employees see veteran suicide as the No. 1 cause to raise our hand in support and advocacy — to do as much as we can to join forces with diverse and knowledgeable organizations who are equally committed to making a positive impact on our military community and their families.”

Since its launch in June 2023, Face the Fight has attracted more than 175 organizations across the country to join its coalition with the goal of making a collective impact and supporting every veteran, regardless of their unique needs or challenges.

“USAA came to us with a vision and a strong desire to help address veteran suicide and really drive awareness that it’s not an inevitable outcome,” said Katy Dondanville, a clinical psychologist at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. “Together we came up with a plan and with the leadership at USAA, Reach Resilience and the Humana Foundation, we launched this multi-year initiative focused on actionable solutions like expanding suicide prevention in communities to better identify and support those at risk and strengthening access to equitable and effective clinical care for suicide in community-based organizations.”

Face the Fight has seen solid growth in its first year because of a strong foundation, actionable objectives and a clear future-focused strategy. To date, more than $85 million has been pledged from USAA, Reach Resilience, the Humana Foundation, as well as private donations and other organizations. Through initial grants provided to nonprofits, more than 15,000 veterans have been screened for suicide risk and over 5,000 veterans have received suicide-specific interventions. Additionally, nearly 300 mental health clinicians and peers have been trained to deliver suicide-specific treatments and trained to talk to veterans about voluntary, safe and secure storage of firearms at times of distress.

“Our veterans selflessly answered the call to serve — and now it’s our turn,” said Sonya Medina Williams, president and CEO of Reach Resilience. “As a founding partner, we believe fully in the purpose and power of Face the Fight and recognize the tremendous ability — and responsibility — of corporations, foundations and other sectors to step up and help save our veterans from suicide.”

The small seed of an idea is forming into a powerful force with major organizations and corporations across the country joining in to lend their voice and their resources. The power of Face the Fight can be seen in the collaboration and the outlook that the shared team envisions.

“It’s with our partners — who all share the same passion to help our veterans — that we can work to destigmatize asking for help, raise awareness around veteran suicide prevention and deploy philanthropic grants that support programs that can change and save lives,” said O’Neill.

To learn more about how you can join the fight or get help, visit www.wefacethefight.org.






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