The Department of Veterans Affairs is taking seriously the rising rates of suicide among veterans. The Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-TALK (8255)) has been a response to this. With more and more veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Sonja Batten believes that the risk of veteran suicides deserves more attention and prevention efforts. Batten, the assistant deputy chief of patient care services officer for mental health, says that the “VA is increasing its efforts to reach out to veterans in need and their families.”
Part of this greater effort includes a new TV public service announcement. This commercial-like broadcast tells watching veterans about the Veterans Crisis Line. Calling the number, and selecting option 1 connects the veteran to a VA mental health professional. The phone number works 24 hours a day, and the mental health professionals are always staffing the phones, ready to answer.
Believing that all suicide is preventable and that this prevention is everyone’s responsibility motivates Batten in her efforts to spread the news about this hotline. Additionally, the hotline is open to anyone. While it is targeted for veterans, non-veterans are not turned away. More than 200,000 veterans have called the hotline since it was created in 2007. An additional 179,000 non veterans have called the line, none of these were turned away. While these total numbers are tracked, any and all information given by callers is confidential.
For some, an online chat room would serve better than a telephone call. Recognizing this, the VA has also created the Veterans Chat program. These online chat rooms are staffed by VA mental health professionals, which are there to talk with and provide the support any veterans or their families need. Veterans Chat can be found HERE.
Photo thanks to the justified sinner under creative common license on Flickr.