The mission of caring for the nation’s heroes is what unites Veterans Affairs as the nation’s largest, integrated health care system.
But what happens when one of our heroes or family members calls in for help or is in distress is where our mission comes full circle in an instant.
During one shift at the Wilmington VA Medical Center, Beth Smith, an Advanced Medical Support Assistant (Behavioral Health), received a call from a Veteran in need early one morning who was in crisis.
The Veteran sounded very distressed on the phone and was very adamant that he couldn’t take it anymore and he needed help, said Smith.
Quick reaction instincts kick in and responders are trained to keep the Veteran talking and reassuring them that they care about them and will listen as long as needed.
“This was my chance to let the Veteran know that I was here, and I was going to help him, but also listen to him,” Smith said. “The only thing in my mind was to be there for the Veteran and listen, sympathize with him and let him know I was here for him and I am listening.”
She was able to get more information about who was in the house with the Veteran at the time, if there were any weapons in the house as well.
“I wanted to make sure I did everything I could to keep that Veteran on the phone with me and focused on our call,” she said.
Responders are not alone when talking with Veterans in times of crisis, they are a team working to help. They work together to either contact local emergency personnel or VA Police to help as one responder stays on the line with the Veteran. The contact with the Veteran is never broken to ensure they keep talking until help arrives.
Keysha Medley, another Advanced Medical Support Assistant (Behavioral Health) at Wilmington VA Medical Center, jumped on the other line to reach out to the Crisis Line, local authorities and the VA Police who could send for a welfare check.
“While she [Smith] was keeping him on the phone and ensuring him we were getting help, I was able to get in touch with someone to do a welfare check and she stayed on the line with him and kept him calm and let the Veteran know someone was reaching out to him,” remarked Medley.
Once the Crisis Line clicks into the call, they take over the with Veteran and oversee the local authorities with help and VA responders drop out of the call. Success means keeping the caller engaged on the phone until they are out of danger.
“We did find out later that the Veteran was admitted for help and that made us feel a lot better about the situation,” Medley said.
Veteran Crisis Line
The Veteran Crisis Line is an anonymous call center designed to encourage Veterans and their families to reach out for help in time of distress and responders stay on the line until they are either assured of the caller’s safety or the situation is in hand by local emergency responders.
If you are a Veteran in crisis, know someone who is, or are a concerned family member, please make the call. Call 1-800-273-8255 Option 2 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
For more information, visit https://www.veteranscrisisline.net.