Vet takes on suicide with broadcast ambitions
Moved by an epidemic of suicides among U.S. military veterans, one veteran aims to help stem the tide with a 24-7 TV channel for vets, by vets.
The brainchild of Glenn Towery, a Round Rock, Texas-based Vietnam combat veteran, Veterans Suicide Prevention Channel launched Jan. 3 on YouTube as a free resource for veterans and their families. He hopes to grow this fledgling online presence into a national broadcast or cable channel in the future.
The YouTube channel and its companion website feature a series of veteran and family member testimonials. Most of these video interviews are candid veteran-to-veteran talks by combat vets on issues related to post-traumatic stress disorder that can lead to suicidal thinking.
Like Towery, many of these vets say they have firsthand experience of PTSD. Towery says he came up with the idea after hearing in a news report last year that 22 veterans commit suicide every day.
“It just broke my heart to hear that,” he says. “I am a filmmaker and I thought at the time, ‘but what can I do to help change that statistic with a camera?’ I decided to create a YouTube channel and interview people on camera.
“So I took my camcorder and asked veterans I knew from a VA support group that I attend weekly, for some interviews,” he says. “A few of them consented and I asked them one question and let the camera roll: ‘If a veteran came to you and told you that they were considering committing suicide, what would you say to them to try to talk them out of it?’”
It wasn’t long before the initial 14 videos Towery filmed and posted on the YouTube channel drew attention. He says they began to draw similar posts from others concerned about the welfare of vets, including public service announcements, interviews, documentaries, music videos and more. His plans for the project also began to grow.
He says that while visiting his sister in Shreveport, La. a few weeks later he watched her sit her two dogs in front of the television to watch DIRECTV’s DOGTV before they went out for breakfast.
“My mind was blown,” Towery says. “Could it be that dogs and pets have a national broadcast channel but America’s veterans do not? It was true, and I set out to change that after that day.”
The aspiring broadcaster says he has since formed a company of volunteers comprised of friends and family, garnered support from veterans groups, filed for no-profit status and is currently pursuing funding options. He added that pilots for the channel’s first three shows are in the final editing stages and will debut online in the near future.
“The premise for the creation of the channel is to try to (help) veterans and their family members who are suffering from PTSD and other mental and emotional health conditions that they may be dealing with on a day-to-day basis,” Towery said, adding that the programing is not meant to replace regular treatments. “We want to create a channel where veterans and their family members can be serviced from the safety and serenity of their own homes.”