New campaign, Marine Corps veteran look to connect veterans to mental health resources

NOW: New campaign, Marine Corps veteran look to connect veterans to mental health resources

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The latest numbers from the Department of Veterans Affairs show that nearly 18 veterans a day will take their own lives in the United States. That's a number that Marine Corps veteran Mark Provencher, Jr. says is too high.

"Eighteen is too many, no matter how you look at it," Provencher said. "The information has to get out there. It has to be daily. It has to be present and relevant to what the veterans are going through right now."

Provencher is a regional coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs covering Region 8 in Wisconsin. He works with veterans living in Sheboygan, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Marquette, Columbia, Dodge, Washington and Ozaukee counties, connecting them with resources available to them following their service.

"There's a lot of different mental health issues," Provencher explained. "A lot of different things that they're going through that it really makes their situation complicated."

The new ReachOutWis.org campaign has a goal similar to Provencher's: get the number of veteran suicides per day down from 18 to zero.

"This has been a couple years in the making, in partnership with the Milwaukee VA Medical Center and the Medical College of Wisconsin. This is powerful," said Dan Buttery, a veteran and current president and CEO of the War Memorial Center in Milwaukee. "It's a combination of television spots and radio spots. We'll be doing a lot of digital targeting."

Doctor Bertrand Berger, a clinical psychologist and division manager for the Milwaukee VA is optimistic that the work behind the new campaign will provide a positive impact in the veteran community.

"Keep that number down," Dr. Berger said. "We want to reduce the rate of suicide and we really feel that this project will make a difference."

The radio and television ads feature real-life veterans as the actors, portraying real-life situations that people could be going through in everyday life. Brent Hibbard is one of those veterans.

"I had actually gone through the inpatient program at the VA. I was having my own struggles. It was a very positive, positive experience," Hibbard said, explaining why he took part in the campaign. He had this message to share with his fellow veterans suffering with suicidal thoughts: "Don't think about yourself. Think about your family. Think about what we owe those soldiers that didn't make it home."

The campaign also features a familiar face to Wisconsin sports, with Packers Super Bowl champion Daryn Colledge talking about the challenges NFL and military veterans face with mental health. He also discusses his own decision to serve in the armed forces following his professional football career.

As for Provencher, he continues to help serve veterans through his work and his own personal push-up campaign, posting videos of himself doing 25 push-ups on his Facebook page for the last 618 days. That's 15,450 push-ups as of Wednesday. It's a mission he doesn't plan to stop any time soon.

"My objective, or my mission, is to do these push-ups until I can't do them anymore," Provencher said.

If you or a veteran you know is suffering from suicidal thoughts, visit https://reachoutwis.org/ for resources available to help.

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