D.C. (American Forces Press Service) ó Help is only a phone call
away for military veterans considering suicide.
100,000 veterans, family members or friends of veterans have reached
out for help by calling the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK. The hotline was launched
VA initiative is part of a collaborative effort with the National
Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a nationwide network of 133 crisis
automatically are routed to the nearest center based on the callerís
hotline operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is staffed by
trained mental health professionals prepared to deal with immediate
crisis. Although the lifeline isnít restricted to military veterans
only, callers are prompted to "please press 1 now" if they
are a U.S. military veteran or are calling about a veteran. Callers
who press 1 are transferred to the nearest VA call center.
than 2,600 veterans have been "rescued" through the hotline,
according to a recent VA statement.
urge veterans and their loved ones to take advantage of our
suicide-prevention program," VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said
in the statement. "Help for these heroes is a phone call
estimated 5,000 veterans commit suicide annually, with Iraq and
Afghanistan war veterans 35 percent more likely to commit suicide than
the general population. VA statistics show that between 2002 and 2006,
more than 250 veterans who left the military after Sept. 11, 2001,
trend has grown within the active-duty military ranks too. A steady
increase in suicides among veterans and active-duty members has been
persistent in recent years. The Army recently announced 2008 as its
highest suicide year since 1980, with at least 128 Soldiers confirmed
to have taken their own lives, while 15 other cases are pending
the Defense Department and local communities are making it a point to
understand suicide and determine better prevention methods. Defense
leaders, including Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff, have voiced concerns for short- and long-term solutions.
have got to be able to support those individuals in ways that, in some
cases, we havenít quite figured out yet," Mullen said during a
lecture at Grove City College, Pa., earlier this month.
routinely advocates for solutions to increase the amount of rest and
time at home troops have in between deployments. Officials recognize
the high tempo of deployment rotations as being a likely factor for
the increased suicide rates.
and active-duty military officials are working with outside research
organizations to improve their programs and lower the numbers. The
Army and National Institute of Mental Health recently launched a
five-year research initiative to gain a better understanding in the
hope of preventing suicides in the military and nation.
identify and treat at-risk patients, prevention efforts and
initiatives are in place in each of VAís 153 medical centers and
more than 750 outpatient clinics across the nation. Also, suicide
prevention coordinators are on hand at each facility.
veterans, whether they call the suicide prevention hotline or walk in,
receive follow-up care almost immediately.
evaluations occur within 24 hours of requests, and referrals are given
for mental health appointments. Comprehensive evaluations are
conducted within 14 days, with emergency cases handled immediately.