Omar Epps, co-star of Fox's hit medical drama House, also co-stars in a TV, radio, and online campaign to help stop suicide among members of the military.
"The high rate of suicide in the military -- we wanted to shine some light on that," says Epps, referring to the star-studded cast of the public service announcements. "If there's any drop as a result, that's a good thing."
Epps joins a host of other celebrities -- including Michael Chiklis, Melissa Leo, Terrell Owens, and Alfre Woodard -- who encourage soldiers, veterans, and their families to seek help if they need it and direct them to a suicide prevention hotline.
Facts about Military Suicides
An estimated 6,000 veterans take their own lives each year. Male veterans are about one and a half times more likely to commit suicide than non-veterans, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The rate for women who have served in the military is nearly three times that of other women. And the suicide rate has been climbing. Between 2001 and 2008, the number increased by about 50% throughout the Department of Defense.
"It's pretty startling," Epps says. "There's a high rate among all those sons, brothers, husbands, and wives. And a lot of suicides happen after they get home. They're blessed enough to survive combat, but they have so much to deal with when they return."
Blue Star Families Endorses Happy New Year
The PSAs, which first aired in June, are being widely rebroadcast this month (Nov. 19 is International Survivors of Suicide Day) in tandem with the release of a film, Happy New Year, about an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran struggling to heal his physical and emotional scars. The film opens on Nov. 11 in select cities and is endorsed by Blue Star Families (bluestarfam.org), a nonprofit founded in 2008 by military spouses that advocates for families from all ranks and services. Suicide prevention is one of its top priorities, and in August, the White House honored the group's efforts.
BSF partnered with the Creative Coalition, an organization that educates its members, drawn from the arts and entertainment industries, about pressing social concerns. Epps serves on its advisory board. He doesn't have any family members in the military, but he has a message for those who serve: "There are organizations out there where you can seek help and counseling. As soldiers, you are fighting for our freedom. As fellow Americans, we are here to help you."