VA suicide prevention tool puts lifesaving information in R.E.A.C.H

WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released a mobile app, March 18, that offers step-by-step guidance for those who are trying to support someone they care about and for those who are concerned about their own emotional wellbeing. 

Developed by the PREVENTS Office, the How We R.E.A.C.H. Coaching Tool includes five actions to take when REACHing out to someone in need or when you are REACHing out for help for yourself. It provides additional resource information and suggested language to use when starting what are often very difficult conversations. 

When we REACH to those in need, we:

R – Reach out and ask, “How are you…really?” Listen and offer hope.

E – Engage them about possible risk factors and changes in their life to better understand their pain.

A – Attend to their safety. Unless you are concerned about your safety, stay with them.

C – Connect them to resources such as supportive friends and family, professionals or a crisis line.

H – Help them make and maintain a plan to stay safe. Encourage them to share it with others. 

When we REACH because we are hurting, we:

R – Reach to a loved one or someone we trust. Don’t be afraid to reach out — now.

E – Engage those we trust and discuss life changes and risk factors that are contributing to our pain.

A – Attend to our safety. Contact someone who can be with us and help us stay safe.

C – Connect with family, friends or appropriate professionals. Contact a crisis line and be honest so they can help.

H – Help others understand how they can help us stay safe. Share a safety plan if we have one. 

“The How We R.E.A.C.H. Coaching Tool empowers everyone with basic information so they can take the necessary critical steps to provide – or receive – help and hope,” said PREVENTS Executive Director Barbara Van Dahlen, Ph.D. “It puts this important information at our fingertips, on our phones, giving people the confidence to reach out for themselves, to friends and loved ones, to ensure they get the support they deserve.” 

The tool is a key component of REACH, the first ever national public health campaign focused on suicide prevention. Established in July 2020, REACH aims to engage everyone with the goal of changing the culture of mental health and preventing suicide among Veterans and all Americans.  

It was developed with the help of military and Veterans Service Organizations, and in collaboration with other organizations that have pledged to assist with the dissemination of this potentially life-saving app. 

Download the How We R.E.A.C.H. Coaching Tool.