Preventing veteran suicide
The holidays and following weeks can be a dismal time for those suffering from depression.
But the Crook County Veterans Services and the Crook County Health Department want veterans to know there is help.
The Veterans Crisis Line is another avenue for someone in crisis to talk to someone who can help, says Crook County Veterans Services Director Shannon Dearth.
"It's a way for someone who's getting into that dark period of their life to have somebody to talk to, give them some pointers, give them some suggestions," he said. "It's also set up in such a way where if you're the family or friend of someone who's in one of those periods of their life, they can actually call and ask 'What do I do? How can I help them?'"
The Veterans Crisis Line is a nationwide free, anonymous, confidential resource that's available to all military veterans, even those who are not registered with Veterans Affairs or enrolled in VA health care.
"Depression is a big one, especially when they're sitting all alone, and they don't want to do that but they're thinking of that next step," Dearth said, adding that they want to stem the tide of suicide.
Veterans or anyone concerned about the mental state of a veteran may call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 anytime of the day or night.
The qualified responders at the Veterans Crisis Line are specially trained and experienced in helping veterans of all ages and circumstances.
The responder will ask a few questions, such as whether the veteran is in immediate danger or at risk for suicide. Callers will decide what to share about themselves and what they want to talk about.
The resource is also available in an online chat format at www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/hotline, and by text at 838255. Support for deaf and hard of hearing is available by phone at 1-800-799-4889.
The Veterans Crisis Line is not a new thing, but it has grown and expanded since it began in 2007 as the National Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline.
In 2009, an online chat option was added, and it was renamed Veterans Crisis Line in 2010. Texting was added in 2011, followed by a mobile site in 2013. In 2016, a second call center opened with an increased staff.
Since its launch, the Veterans Crisis Line has answered more than 3.5 million calls and initiated the dispatch of emergency services to callers in crisis nearly 100,000 times.
Dearth said recently "VA raised some alarming numbers and that's when they determined there were about 22 veterans a day who commit suicide. Since then, that number has been fluctuating between 20 and 22 a day nationwide."
Oregon counties applied for and were awarded grants from Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs for suicide awareness and prevention.
"Most of the counties, with September being the National Suicide Prevention Awareness month, did a lot of their campaigns then," Dearth said.
But he partnered with Katie Plumb at the Crook County Health Department and came up with a plan.
"We wanted to pinpoint the holiday season because that's usually pretty critical," Dearth said. "We came together and developed a plan of how can we get the message out there."
They used the grant funding to make coffee sleeves with the Veterans Crisis Line phone number and dispersed the sleeves at local coffee shops around town. The sleeves have since been depleted, but they hope that people are more aware that a crisis line is available.
They have also led an advertising campaign and have displayed banners around town.
Dearth encourages those in crisis to pick up the phone.
"There are people who do care. We all care. Everyone is important. Everyone has a mission. Everyone has a purpose and meaning," he said. "In the military in ranks, when one soldier, one sailor, one marine, is gone out of ranks, there's a hole. You're not complete. Among veterans, even though we kid each other a lot, we're a tight-knit community. We've seen and done things together, so it's a sense of family, and when one veteran is gone, it's like a member of the family is now missing."
Veterans Crisis Line
Call: 1-800-273-8255 and press 1
Support for deaf and hard of hearing: 1-800-799-4889
Online chat: www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/hotline