Engaging community partners in the technology sector is an important component of VA’s National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide. With advances in technology and growing engagement in social media, Veterans are increasingly using technology to communicate. In a recent web-based showcase, VA shared what technology partners Rally Point, CaringBridge and Objective Zero are doing to amplify and strengthen VA suicide prevention efforts, foster social connectedness and expand the reach of lifesaving resources for Veterans and their families.
Creating supportive communities online — including on social platforms and through mobile apps — is critical to Veteran suicide prevention. VA is collaborating with several technology partners that offer their own unique services to help service members and Veterans get the care they need, whenever and wherever they need it.
RallyPoint, a safe, secure social media community that allows service members and Veterans to discuss military life, share information and exchange stories in a safe, secure social media environment.
“Imagine a Facebook-like experience that has a lot of people talking about very raw things because they trust each other,” explains David Gowel, RallyPoint’s CEO. The technology-driven collaboration between RallyPoint and VA will help connect service members with community-based programs, as well as support transitioning service members, Veterans and their families, caregivers and survivors. Additionally, VA has worked with RallyPoint to provide this core virtual community with suicide prevention messages and resources, including information about the critical need to promote firearm safe storage in the military community, and a link to VA’s S.A.V.E. training, which received more than 30,000 user engagements in a single post.
CaringBridge, a nonprofit social network dedicated to helping family and friends communicate with and support loved ones during their health journeys, has worked with VA to develop a landing page that directly focuses on the needs of service members, Veterans and their caregivers and families. CaringBridge has offered training at VA medical centers to help facilitate online outreach and support for Veterans and their families. The organization’s customer care staff has also been trained on VA resources and how to make referrals to the Veterans Crisis Line.
“We can help them connect with their family and friends so that their family and friends can be their support mechanism and really rally for them and reduce their isolation and stress,” said Susan Kerber, VA outreach lead for CaringBridge.
Objective Zero Foundation is a nonprofit organization that uses technology to enhance social connectedness and improve access to mental health resources. Betsey Mercado, co-founder and director of Objective Zero, based the app on the idea that listening can truly save lives. Volunteer ambassadors sign up and receive training, including VA’s S.A.V.E. training, so that others can be connected to resources and support when they need it most.
Find VA’s Technology Partner Resources:
RallyPoint is a free resource for military families, spouses, caregivers and federal employees. Users can build their own professional networks, share resources, and connect with other members of the military community in a safe, secure social media environment. This active community with over 1.7 million members also provides career opportunities, educational resources, and social connectedness. Follow the VA page by joining here: https://rly.pt/JoinVA
A CaringBridge website can be used to share updates and coordinate support for service members, Veterans, and their caregivers and families during any health journey, including treatment for mental health and substance use disorders. In addition to enhancing social connectedness, CaringBridge allows its users to start or link to personal fundraisers using CaringBridge’s Ways to Help page. Through the partnership with VA and CaringBridge, a tailored destination page https://www.caringbridge.org/military-service/ is now available.
With over 4,100 users across 13 countries, the Objective Zero mobile app connects service members, Veterans, and their families and caregivers to peer support through calls, videoconferencing, and text messaging. Users also get free access to resources on mental health and wellness. Download the free Objective Zero app at https://www.objectivezero.org/app, to help spread the word about Objective Zero among service members, Veterans, and others in your community.
The health and well-being of our nation’s Veterans and former service members is VA’s highest priority. Guided by data and research, VA is working with partners, Veterans’ family members and friends, and the community to ensure that Veterans and former service members get the right care whenever they need it. To learn about the resources available for Veterans and how you can Be There as a VA employee, family member, friend, community partner or clinician, visit www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/resources.asp.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.
Clairmont Barnes is the associate director, partnerships and community relations, VA Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention