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IAVA Statement on Communicating about PTSD

NEW YORK, NY (October 3, 2016) — In response to multiple media requests, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) released the following statement today:  

“Veteran suicide is a serious and rising national public health challenge. PTSD, mental health injuries and suicide must be addressed aggressively, comprehensively and responsibly. Every national leader has a responsibility to use accurate and appropriate language when talking about mental health and suicide especially. The wrong messages on PTSD and suicide can perpetuate stigma and complicate an already complicated problem,” said Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and CEO of IAVA. “Terms like ‘killing yourself’ or ‘mental problems’, or any any suggestion that suicide only impacts the weak, can promote contagion and may discourage people from getting help for mental health injuries. Getting help for a mental health injury is not a sign of weakness, it’s a demonstration of strength. We encourage the public and media to use this time as a chance to educate and inform, rather than to attack and divide. IAVA encourages all Americans to use this discussion as an opportunity to add light rather than just heat. IAVA encourages every journalist in America to review and bookmark American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s excellent guide on how to cover suicide and to review our comprehensive recommendations for fighting veteran suicide at”

In the IAVA 7th Annual Member Survey, the majority of respondents who had a mental health injury but were not seeking care said that the reason for not pursuing help was concern that their loved ones would perceive them differently. Nearly 80 percent of respondents who indicated a family member had recommended they seek mental health care sought care as a result.

IAVA is the leading voice of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in Washington and communities nationwide. Led by veterans, our non-partisan advocacy work ensures that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families are supported, protected and never forgotten. Since 2004, IAVA has been a juggernaut in Washington, creating and driving the national conversation on issues ranging from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) to women veteran issues to veteran unemployment. IAVA’s dedicated staff in Washington, D.C. leads this work, advocating on behalf of our members daily. We also train our member veterans to be powerful advocates for their community.IAVA is focused on results and has delivered historic impacts. Every year since 2007, in an increasingly gridlocked political environment and with an extremely limited operating budget, IAVA has passed at least one major piece of groundbreaking legislation for our community ranging from the Post-9/11 GI Bill (2008), to the VOW to Hire Heroes Act (2011), to The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act (2015). See IAVA’s Advocacy Program Digital Hub the full list of victories and to learn more about how you can help.

IAVA Research Director, Dr. Jackie Maffucci, is available for media. If interested, please reach Claire Owens at or 212-982-9699.


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