The Wyoming sects of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are partnering with various bars across Natrona County to help prevent Veteran suicide in Wyoming.

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That's according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, who wrote that beginning on March, 15, Casper bars will begin offering beverage coasters with very specific, and important, messaging.

The coasters serve as marketing materials for the #ReachOut2Me community campaign. They will include information about the Veterans Crisis Line, including the fact that the line serves as a reference for Veterans and for those concerned about Veterans. It will also include the number to the Veterans Crisis Line.

"Our Reach Out 2 Me campaign started as a little tiny seed with several of us in the Sheridan VA," Kristina Miller, the Public Affairs & Congressional Liaison Officer with the Sheridan VA told K2 Radio News. "I'm a Veteran myself and we were talking about how to do something different; a better way to reach Veterans."

That 'something different' was this campaign idea.

Miller stated that more than half of all Veterans who end their life have never engaged with their local VA. They want to change that, and this campaign is the first step towards doing that.

In addition to partnering with Casper bars to offer the coasters, the Sheridan VA and partners are also presenting what they call 'the Big Ask.'

It's actually not that big, but they're asking that if anybody goes to these bars and sees the coasters, that they take save the Veterans Crisis Line in their phone and that they take a selfie with the coaster and post it to their social media. In all, the entire 'Big Ask' should take about 30 seconds.

"This would basically send a message to all of the Veterans that they know that, if any of them are struggling or are in a crisis and feel like they don't have anyone to talk to, that they can 'Reach Out to Me,'" Miller said. 'Me' can be any of us - anybody who takes the photo and posts it to their social media. The goal is for Veterans and non-Veterans alike to see post after post after post of people saying "Reach out to me."

If all goes according to plan, this campaign could ensure that Veterans never again feel like they have nobody to talk to.

Miller said that the 'Big Ask' isn't so much about the act of taking the picture and posting it to social media; the 'Big Ask' is in the follow-through. It's actually making yourself available to speak with somebody if they reach out. It's about answering the phone, responding to the DM, sitting down for the coffee.

"The 'Big Ask' is scary," Miller said. "It's scary to put yourself out there. But the cool thing is that the Veterans Crisis Line is for anyone to use, in order to help a Veteran. So if I've got this person that I'm concerned about but I don't know what to say or how to engage, I can call the Veterans Crisis Line and professionals will coach me on what to say."

In addition to the coasters, the VA Suicide Prevention team is also offering training to bar staff if they choose to participate.

“Each individual plays a role in suicide prevention,” said Kayla Stevens, with the VA's Suicide Prevention Program. “By sharing the crisis line information on your social media, you are showing the Veterans in your life that you support them while simultaneously breaking down stigma surrounding mental health treatment. Everyone struggles with mental health from time to time and there is no shame in talking about it with those you trust or seeing a mental health professional.”

As of March 1, the bars that are participating in this campaign include: VFW Post #10677, VFW Post #9439, Casper Elks Lodge Bar, Black Tooth Brewing Company, Spirits Lounge, Gruner Brothers Brewin, 307 Horse Racing Bar, Mountain Hops Brewhouse, Skull Tree Brewing, Stahoo’s Brewery and Taproom, The Keg and Cork, Local Liquor and Lounge, Moonlight Liquors and Lounge, Frontier Brewing Company and Taproom, The Gaslight Social, Vintage Fine Wine and Martini Bar, The Backdoor Lounge, Galloway’s Pub and Bowling Alley and The Beacon.

Each of these bars, and the patrons who inhabit them, have the opportunity to help fight Veterans' suicide, simply by letting these men and women know that they can reach out to them.

attachment-Veteran_Suicide_Prevention_ Proud_Supporter

For more information, you can visit the Veterans Crisis Line website.

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