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Veterans Health Administration

Stand by Them: Help a Veteran

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Friends, Families and Communities Committed to Preventing Veteran Suicides

This is Suicide Prevention Month, time to remind America about the crisis too many of our wounded warriors face. At VA, every month is Suicide Prevention Month and we encourage you to join us in getting involved. VA and numerous other government and private organizations are joining together to participate in Suicide Prevention Month activities.

You can help make more people aware of this crisis by distributing posters and flyers in your community. Or put a banner or badge on your website. Download them here.

What We’re Doing

VA’s Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis, and their families and friends, with qualified, caring responders through a confidential toll-free hotline and online chat.

Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 or chat online to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

According to Jan Kemp, VA’s Suicide Prevention Center Director, “The caring professionals at the Veterans Crisis Line are specially trained and experienced in helping Veterans of all ages and circumstances. Many of the responders are Veterans and understand what Veterans and their families and friends have been through and the challenges Veterans of all ages and service eras face.”

Call them and tell them about anything that has been particularly stressful for you lately — the death of a loved one, relationship break-up, loss of job or unemployment, money problems, losing your home, or anything else that might be contributing to how you are feeling.

Since its launch in 2007, the Veterans Crisis Line has answered more than 650,000 calls and made more than 23,000 life-saving rescues. In 2009, the Veterans Crisis Line added an anonymous online chat service, which has helped more than 65,000 people.

Help at Every VA Medical Center

People who know a Veteran best may be the first to recognize emotional distress and reach out for support when issues reach a crisis point — well before a Veteran is at risk of suicide.

To make sure all Veterans and their loved ones are aware of the Veterans Crisis Line, VA is coordinating with communities and partners nationwide to let Veterans and their loved ones know that support is available whenever, if ever, they need it.

There is a Suicide Prevention Coordinator at every VA Medical Center. This month they are working with community supporters to coordinate special outreach events including seminars, health fairs, training and information sessions, community events and events at many VA Medical Centers.

Here is more information on suicide prevention and other mental health issues.

It is not unusual to face disappointments, frustrations, loss, and the wear and tear of daily stress. People experience emotional and mental health crises in response to a wide range of situations — from difficulties in their personal relationships to the loss of a job.

For Veterans, these crises can be heightened by their experiences during military service. When emotional issues reach a crisis point, it’s time to call on the Veterans Crisis Line for support.

Recognize the Signs

Sometimes a crisis may involve thoughts of suicide.

Learn to recognize these warning signs:

  • Hopelessness, feeling like there’s no way out
  • Anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness, or mood swings
  • Feeling like there is no reason to live
  • Rage or anger
  • Engaging in risky activities without thinking
  • Increasing alcohol or drug abuse
  • Withdrawing from family and friends

The following signs require immediate attention:

  • Thinking about hurting or killing yourself
  • Looking for ways to kill yourself
  • Talking about death, dying, or suicide
  • Self-destructive behavior such as drug abuse, weapons, etc.

If you are a Veteran or know a Veteran who is experiencing any of these signs, call the Veterans Crisis Line immediately. Responders are standing by to help.

Anonymous On-Line Quiz That Will Help

Crisis, stress, depression, and other issues affect people in different ways. Maybe you’re having trouble sleeping or feel out of control. Maybe your energy level is down or you feel anxious all the time. If these issues and others seem to be leading to a crisis, treatment can help.

On the Crisis Line website you can take a confidential, anonymous, risk assessment to see how you might benefit from VA or community-based services.

You don’t have to give your name. You just answer some questions that may be very familiar. Such as:

  • During the last 4 weeks, how often have you been bothered by any of the following?
    • Feeling nervous or worrying a lot?
    • Having arguments or fights?
    • Feeling out of control?

Director Kemp stresses that, “Suicide is one of the top priorities in VA right now. Prevention goes beyond a month, or a week, or a day. With VA, prevention is constant and we do that by making sure Vets and their families are aware of the signs and symptoms and that they know where to go for help when they need it.”

“Call the crisis line. It’s the first step you can take to get the help you need to get your life back on track. People are here to help you.”

— Justin White, U.S. Marine Corps 1996-1999