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Can a song help reduce military, veteran suicides?

For too many years now, the growing problem of military personnel and veterans (as well as civilians), taking their own lives has been seemingly unsolvable.

Last year the federal government passed a new law that makes it easier for anyone with a potential suicide problem to phone for help — 988. For a long time we’ve had a toll-free, 1-800 number that served the same purpose, and in fact is still in operation. But a mental health emergency such as calling for help when one is considering suicide can be even more daunting when looking in desk drawers and cluttered table-tops for that elusive 1-800 number with all those cumbersome digits.

So now the mental health number to remember and call is 988. That’s it. Just three numbers. Easy to remember and dial. But I can’t help but feel that promotion of the new number has been limited. It needs to be shouted from the rooftops.

To that end I’ve written and recorded a song with the title of the three-digit toll-free telephone number that can be called for help — “Nine-Eight-Eight.” Anyone thinking about committing suicide, or any individual who knows of someone considering suicide and who wants professionals to help them to try and stop it are encouraged to call that number. The song contains the lyric, “Don’t do it, call 988!”

I am urging President Biden, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs as well as other elected and appointed officials to place the song in government-sponsored commercials on television, radio and social media. The original idea behind the three-digit phone number is great, but I feel we need to do much more to get the word out. The song is one way to make it happen.

I’ve mailed recordings of the song to President Joe Biden and to select members of the cabinet, as well as to many elected officials and others in the federal government and also influential civilians. And copies have gone to notable civilians who are involved in working to reduce suicides. If the song could save even one life, it would be worth it. But of course it’s my sincere and honest hope that playing the song on all sorts of media will begin with saving that one life, and then go on to save many more lives. Currently there are two videos with the song running on YouTube. (Type in: ChuckNBaker NineEightEight.)

In his last State-of-the-Union address, the president said in part, “We were losing up to 25 veterans a day on suicide. Now we’re losing 17 a day to the silent scourge of suicide. Seventeen veterans a day are committing suicide. More than all the people being killed in the wars. Folks, the VA is doing everything it can, including expanding mental health screenings … (it’s a) proven program that recruits veterans to help other veterans understand what they’re going through. Get them the help they need. We’ve got to do more.”

Well, Mr. President, here’s your chance to do more. Please ask the VA to start using the song.

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