Following criticism that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was not doing enough to help veterans in crisis, the VA launched the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The center covers 15 phone lines and 3 chat lines. The staff of 20 includes:
- Social workers and
- Health tech assistants
Some of the veterans call the Lifeline because they are contemplating suicide. Other callers just want information on their local VA hospitals and what mental health services are available to them. 20% of the 30,000 yearly suicides are veterans. That means on average, 18 veterans kill themselves everyday.
The Lifeline center is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The center opened in 2007 and has not had a break from the ringing phones since. The crisis center has almost reached the 250,000 call mark since inception.
The Lifeline focuses on providing immediate assistance with access to instant resources. Veterans need to feel they will not be allowed to just fall through the cracks once they are no longer connected to the Lifeline.
Having access to immediate mental health resources is a new service the Lifeline center offers. For a veteran in dire need of these services, health techs at the crisis center can direct them to help in the caller’s local area or organize an emergency rescue. The next day the veteran receives a follow up call from the center.
The center’s results earned them a $15 million budget for the 2010 year with an additional $4 million to be used for public service campaigns. Besides the phone lines, the center offers a chat line for younger veterans, especially veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Many recent Iraq and Afghanistan veterans call the center because of problems transitioning back into civilian life. Responders focus on listening to the veterans needs and validating their feelings.
The Lifeline clinic is many times a last alternative for the veteran callers. One problem facing younger veterans is overcoming their pride enough to make that initial call for help. The more word gets out about the clinic, the more they will be able to hopefully help those veterans in need.
Learn more about the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and how it helps veterans.