Carolyn Colley, an associate counsel at VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals, recently produced the short film With or Without Me to raise awareness of Veteran suicide and to illustrate its devastating impact on their loved ones.

Veteran suicide is an issue close to Colley’s heart as she lost both of her brothers, who were combat Veterans, to suicide.

In February, she took part in a film workshop for post-9/11 Veterans called the Patton Veterans Project whose mission is to help Veterans cope with post traumatic stress, reduce social isolation and strengthen family, community and professional bonds. The program incorporates screening events that validate Veterans’ experiences, advance community dialogue and educate the public about the mental health challenges facing Veterans and military families.

Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors (TAPS) partnered with the Patton Veterans Project (PVP) by participating in its game-changing “I Was There” filmmaking workshop. Colley, an Air Force Veteran, joined Ben Patton and other Veterans touched by suicide loss to make the film.

According to TAPS, With or Without Me is a powerful example of the ways in which storytelling through film can at once bring awareness to a difficult issue to light while at the same time being immensely healing for the creators of the content. Watch the film and see for yourself.

To learn more about TAPS and the Patton Veterans Project, please visit their websites at and

TAPS and PVP will present a session on the healing power of film for suicide loss survivors on April 26 at the 52nd Annual Conference of the American Association of Suicidology in Denver.


About the author: Elizabeth Murphy is a special advisor to the chairman of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

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Published on Mar. 19, 2019

Estimated reading time is 1.4 min.

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One Comment

  1. Debra E Gray March 19, 2019 at 2:52 pm

    My husband committed Suicide after serving 4 yrs active & 17 years in the USAF & Reservers.
    NOTHING!!!!!!! I have contacted the VA for almost 22 years …Why? I’m told over & over again, paper technicallity !!!! I held Power Of Attorney, so …
    I was legally appointed to sign any papers ….
    I have been denied ALL, but a military funeral!
    I’ve filed for his pension… spousal support…
    Children help (as I had a 14 & 18 yr old at time if his death….NOTHING!!! Today, I still fight for our benefit s!!! We served as a family!!!! Suicide was swept under the rug by USAF Family Help Office….
    Reason….affair!!!! Yes, I said affair!!!! He was enlisted & she was an officer that had a history of playing with married men!!!! To think that anyone would blackmail anyone to the point of Suicide … THINK! …happened! I have filed appeal to Washington DC…to be told case was reviewed & closed… would NOT RE-OPEN! They finally stopped responding to my emails!!! My husband served with honor! Retired with high honors!!! I’m sure he didn’t intend to shout himself ….until he was past the point of feeling the loss of his entire career….because of a huge mistake that haunted him … she threatened him in any way possible!!!! She lives today, he’s dead! He was only 42!! No one has truly investigated!!!!! Technicality….
    Is an unacceptable response!!!!! His grave marker
    Was also inscribed incorrectly…yes, a technicality… they called it, BUT REPLACED WITH CORRRCT INFO!!! So, someone help me , as a surviving spouse…widowed at 42….understand Suicide technicalities????? I will NEVER STOP STANDING FOR ❤️, NOR WILL I EVER STOP SEEKING BENEFITS HE EARNED!!! I see help everywhere for vets…Very thankful they are being noticed!!!! I ask what about their living spouses???? No pension, no help in raising minor children, no usage of VA LOAN programs, nothing! No ID CARD!!!!! Suicide is real & im thankful to see this horrible/ devastating act…addressed!?!?! For me & my boys, too late???? I ask you? I will never stop standing. I have been buried with him! Truth !

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