“Call the Veterans Crisis Line.”
VA is excited to announce that service members and Veterans can connect to the Veterans Crisis Line using these simple words. The Siri function on Apple’s iPhone and the Google Assistant function on Android phones now automatically dial the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline which also serves the Veterans Crisis Line, even if the number (1-800-273-8255) is not saved in the phone’s contact list. Callers will need to Press 1 in order to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.
“Suicide prevention is VA’s top clinical priority, and we are working to reach Veterans where they are to help save lives,” said Dr. Keita Franklin. “The new feature on Apple and Android devices enables service members, Veterans, and their families to get quicker access to our network of certified crisis responders.”
Responders at the Veterans Crisis Line are specially trained and experienced in helping Veterans when mental health or related issues — such as chronic pain, anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, anger, and homelessness — reach a crisis point.
“Since its launch in 2007, the Veterans Crisis Line has answered over 3.5 million calls and initiated the dispatch of emergency services to callers in imminent crisis nearly 93,000 times,” said Dr. Matt Miller, director of the Veterans Crisis Line. “Since launching chat in 2009 and text services in November 2011, the VCL has answered over 397,000 and nearly 92,000 requests for chat and text services respectively.”
According to Miller, the ease of connecting to the Veterans Crisis Line is the technology’s biggest benefit.
“The ability to for Veterans to connect to the Veterans Crisis Line using just four simple words, and through a technology that so many people are familiar with already, is truly remarkable,” Miller said. “While some suicidal crises last a long time, most last minutes to hours. The quicker we can get Veterans connected to care, the more likely they are to survive.”
While recognizing the need for crisis access and rapid care, VA continues to build and emphasize sustained access to care for Veterans to receive ongoing treatment as appropriate.
“VA is working to improve its services by providing evidence-based mental health care across a full spectrum of interventional services,” said Franklin. “We are anticipating and responding to Veterans’ needs and supporting returning service members as they rejoin their communities.”
VA is leveraging a public health approach to suicide prevention that addresses multiple risk factors for suicide to stage interventions before suicidal thoughts and behaviors occur. While VA has made great strides in crisis intervention, the public health approach uses the best evidence available to guide the development of innovative new strategies to serve all Veterans.
No one organization can tackle suicide prevention alone. To save lives, VA is using prevention strategies that reach beyond health care settings to involve peers, family members, and community members in order to reach Veterans where they are.
“Every day people across the nation reach out for support and are able to live healthy, productive lives. But VA alone can’t prevent Veteran suicide,” Franklin said. “To end Veteran suicide, we need support across sectors, and this type of technology is another step in the right direction. The quicker we can get service members and Veterans connected to care, the better.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, support is available 24/7. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available to all at 1-800-273-8255. Veterans, service members, and their families and friends can call the Veterans and Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or text to 838255.
About the author: Megan McCarthy, Ph.D., is the deputy director for suicide prevention for VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.