Veterans can find help through crisis line

A new crisis hotline is available for veterans of war.

Veterans in crisis no longer have to keep the problem a secret — especially if it’s something life-threatening, such as thoughts of suicide. In the past, mental health issues carried a stigma, and people kept problems a secret. Today, the VA is actively bringing the topic out into the open and making sure veterans get the care they need — before something happens.

“We’re here. We’re proactive,” said Natalie Liggett, MSW, LCSW, suicide prevention care manager at the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System. “Suicide prevention is everyone’s business.”
 
When a vet calls the national crisis line, the responder will take immediate action and also contact the local crisis workers. With the veteran’s permission, Ellis and Liggett will set up outpatient care, if appropriate, or make other arrangements to make sure that he or she gets help. When a veteran is talking about suicide or seems at risk, the Suicide Prevention Program will be alerted. Even if a veteran attempted or thought about suicide several months ago, the office will be contacted. Liggett or Ellis will contact the veteran to make sure he’s receiving treatment and responding to it. If a veteran misses an appointment, someone calls to make sure he or she is OK.
 
The national crisis line isn’t called the suicide line anymore because a veteran might have a different crisis in his life. For example, a veteran might be despondent over financial woes, legal action, relationship problems or a job loss. Or he might have trouble adjusting to civilian life after years in the military. Veterans who call the crisis line aren’t necessarily talking about suicide. Sometimes, they just don’t know where else to turn.
 
Since its launch in 2007, the Veterans Crisis Line has answered more than 640,000 calls and made more than 23,000 life-saving rescues. In 2009, an anonymous online chat service was added, which has helped more than 50,000 people. The VA responders — many of them veterans themselves — also provide referrals to local VA services and help vets get fast-tracked mental health care.
 
The VA offers a network of support for veterans and their families and friends:

  • Call the free and confidential crisis line at (800) 273-8255, and press 1.
  • Go to www.VeteransCrisisLine.net to access the confidential, anonymous online chat with a responder.
  • Text to 838255.

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