Suicide Hotline for Combat Veterans 1-800-273-TALK
Suicide is the 11th most frequent cause of death in the United States, accounting for approximately 30,000 deaths annually. It’s estimated that someone dies from suicide every 16 minutes. To ensure that veterans who may be contemplating suicide, and concerned family and friends, have immediate access to a trained person who can help, the Department of Veterans (VA) has established a 24-hour national suicide prevention hotline number: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
The hotline is based at the Canandaigua VA Medical Center in upstate New York. It’s staffed by mental health professionals who know how to assess and respond to crisis situations for veterans at risk of suicide, and incorporates the best practices and research findings in suicide prevention and intervention with the goal of reducing suicides among veterans nationwide.
“This is another significant step to ensure that veterans, particularly the newest generation of combat vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, receive accessible and compassionate care for their mental health concerns,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson said recently.
VA’s hotline is part of the National Suicide Prevention Initiative—a collaborative effort led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The phone number is the same as SAMHSA’s National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a network of local crisis centers located in communities across the Nation that are committed to suicide prevention.
Callers to the hotline will be asked to press 1 if they are a veteran or are concerned about the well-being of a veteran, and will be immediately referred to trained staff at Canandaigua. If all counselors at the facility are busy, callers will be transferred elsewhere—so that they never receive a busy signal or are placed on hold.
Here are some warning signs that can indicate a person is contemplating suicide:
• Talking about wanting to hurt or kill himself or herself.
• Trying to get pills, guns or other items that can harm or kill someone.
• Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide.
• A general feeling of hopelessness.
• Exhibiting behaviors that indicate rage, uncontrolled anger, or a need to seek revenge on someone or something.
• Acting in a reckless or risky way.
• Feeling trapped, as if there is no way out.
• Saying or feeling there’s no reason for living.
Veterans who have such feelings, or family members who have observed any or all of these behaviors, are welcomed to call 1-800-273-TALK—the only national suicide prevention and intervention telephone resource funded by the federal government. In addition to the national hotline, the Department has established a website, at http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov to provide information on suicide prevention awareness.
“While people who are thinking about suicide may think they have problems that can’t be fixed, they are wrong,” said Dr. Michael J. Kussman, VA’s Under Secretary for Health. “We can help, and we want to help. Please don’t wait—call now!”
VA provides mental health services at each of its 153 medical centers, more than 900 outpatient clinics and 207 vet centers. Among the areas the Department specializes in are addiction and substance abuse; depression; homelessness; schizophrenia; post-traumatic stress disorder; readjustment counseling, and vocational rehabilitation.
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