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Veterans group plans to make PSAs about veteran suicide
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Veteran Jerry Edwards is chief operating officer of North Georgia Veteran’s Outreach Center, which is working with a film company to produce public service announcements about veteran suicide. Edwards is using a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to make the films.

How to donate
These wanting more information about how to contribute to the North Georgia Veteran’s Outreach Center crowdfunding campaign can email the organization at info@nogavetoutreach.com or call 678-943-2046.

Having battled his own demons in civilian life, Jerry Edwards has decided to reach out to other veterans — and the public at large — with a series of blunt but realistic public service announcements about veteran suicide.

“I’m not going to pull any punches with these,” said the Gainesville man, who leads the nonprofit organization North Georgia Veteran’s Outreach Center.

“They’re all based on people I know ... and what we experience day in, day out — the nightmares, the day terrors, the way we don’t like leaving the house,” said Edwards, who served in the Army 1988-96, with tours in the Gulf War and Bosnia.

He is working with Atlanta resident Mustafa Mahdi of Chosen One Films to produce five PSAs. He’s developing them through a crowdfunding campaign, which allows donors to be recognized in the films based on how much they give, from a producer credit to speaking parts.

“The most generous of backers, (those) donating $20,000, will be seen with speaking parts in all five PSAs along with producer and acting credits,” Edwards said.

“This could well be the opportunity of a lifetime for an actor or actress who wants to build an instant portfolio that will draw major attention at a glance.”

The first round of crowdfunding will finish at the end of February. Edwards said he would like to see production on the PSAs start by the end of summer.

“The minute we get them done, we’re going to submit them to all the (film) festivals,” he said.

Edwards said he has a source who has assured him that because of the nature of the PSAs, he is “90 percent certain he can get them included in the festival, even if they’re not in the judging.”

“Once they get the exposure, it’s just a matter of time until they wind up being everywhere or end up on YouTube,” he said.

“My initial vision was YouTube, but I’m going to try to go bigger than that, and try to get them (aired on) cable or something like that,” Edwards said.

Mahdi, who will serve as director of the PSAs, said he initially was drawn to the project because of the content.

“Any project I work on, I really look for substance,” he said. “It speaks on issues I feel like aren’t really talked about enough. I’ve lived all over the country and this is a recurring theme I’ve seen in almost every city.

“Veterans are kind of left out to dry for years after their service.”

Edwards said his ultimate aim is to “just get awareness out there.”

“I want to do more and more for veterans ... that I’m out there and we do everything that we can,” he said. “Our mission is to help veterans and ... we don’t care what they need help with.”

Edwards said he hopes the PSAs will “draw more attention to the plight of veterans” facing homelessness, drug dependency, alcoholism, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain Injury.

Those are all factors “leading to the staggering number of veteran suicides in the United States, which at this time is more than 22 per day,” Edwards said.

Veterans issues have gotten much national attention the past couple of years, from long waiting times at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to the public response about “American Sniper,” a movie depicting a military sniper’s troubled return to civilian life.

And just this week, the U.S. Senate approved the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act.

The bill, which passed the House of Representatives on Jan. 12 and is headed to President Barack Obama to be signed into law, seeks to improve mental health care and suicide prevention resources for American veterans.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, hailed the unanimous passage of the “urgent legislation” by both chambers.

“When you have 8,000 veterans a year committing suicide — which is more veterans than have died in all of Iraq and all of Afghanistan since we’ve been fighting — then you have a serious problem,” he said.

The legislation is named for Clay Hunt, a Marine veteran who committed suicide in March 2011 at the age of 28.

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