VA is here to assist in holiday

Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018|2 a.m.

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Holidays can be particularly difficult for troops deployed abroad, but they can likewise be challenging for veterans in requirement. And this holiday season, we have a crucial message for those who have actually worn the uniform: the Department of Veterans Affairs is here to help.

Suicide prevention is the VA’s No. 1 scientific priority, however getting more veterans into care is among our greatest challenges. Usually, 20 veterans die of suicide each day. Of those, 14 have not gotten current VA care.

That’s why we’re working closely with the Defense and Homeland Security departments to execute President Donald Trump’s Jan. 9, 2018, executive order to ensure that all new veterans get mental healthcare for at least one year after their separation from the armed force.

This critical period is marked by a high danger for suicide, and the executive order is helping us guarantee that service members find out about VA benefits and begin VA healthcare enrollment before ending up being veterans. In July 2018, almost 8,000 transitioning service members attended VA Shift Assistance Program modules face to face, and more than 2,700 registered for VA healthcare before, throughout or after their class attendance date. We are also working to guarantee that any newly transitioned veteran can go to a VA medical center or Vet Center and begin receiving mental health care right now.

The VA’s offered resources are comprehensive. To get the word out, the VA spent $12.2 million on suicide avoidance outreach in fiscal year 2018, consisting of $1.5 million on paid media. We have actually likewise made great usage of unpaid media through our collaboration with Johnson & & Johnson to produce a civil service announcement including Tom Hanks– at no charge to the VA. That collaboration helped put the VA in the top 10 of the Nielsen rankings for PSAs. Its YouTube version drew 10s of thousands of views.

The Hanks PSA belonged to our #BeThere public outreach project that drew in more than 102,000 check outs to its website. In September, Suicide Prevention Month, our #BeThere messaging produced 50 million Twitter impressions and 18 million social media hits, while drawing in more than 100 public- and private-sector partners.

Our promotional efforts are working, as increasingly more Americans are taking advantage of our suicide prevention resources.

The Veterans Crisis Line helps about 2,000 callers every day. In the previous ten years, it has responded to more than 3.5 million calls, taken part in more than 413,000 online chats, and responded to more than 98,000 text messages.

Most of the callers to the Veterans Crisis Line are veterans, but many are likewise concerned relative and good friends contacting behalf of a veteran close to them. VA is there to assist them, too.

Our suicide avoidance planners carried out more than 22,000 outreach events in 2015, reaching 2.2 million people.

And anyone can take the VA’s SAVE suicide prevention training for free on the

PsychArmor Institute site. More than 17,000 Americans already have taken this action. For VA employees, annual SAVE training is obligatory. In September alone, more than 52,000 workers completed it.

However nobody organization can take on suicide avoidance on its own. To save veterans’ lives, we must ensure that numerous systems are working in a coordinated method to reach veterans when and where they need help.

In other words, the VA needs everybody’s help. So if you know a veteran in crisis, point him or her towards the nearest VA facility, where he or she can get same-day immediate mental health services. Have them call the Veteran Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, and even make that call yourself.

Every death by suicide is a catastrophe, and we will not relent in our efforts to connect veterans in requirement with lifesaving support. The VA is here to assist, and we need everyone’s aid in spreading that message.

Robert Wilkie is the secretary of Veterans Affairs. He composed this for

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