The Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline, a collaborative effort by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, received about 55,000 calls in its first year of operation. Of those, 22,000 came directly from veterans and the rest from family or friends seeking help for veterans.
The hotline provides national, around-the-clock access to crisis counseling and behavioral health services for all veterans and their families in emotional distress or suicidal crisis.
Upon calling the hotline, 1-800-273-TALK, callers hear a voice prompt saying, “If you are a U.S. military veteran or if you are calling about a veteran, please press ‘one’ now.” The caller is then connected to a VA-operated call center in Canandaigua, N.Y., staffed by professional crisis workers who can direct the veteran to his or her local VA Suicide Prevention Coordinator for priority follow-up and monitoring at the local VA Medical Center.
When call volume exceeds the capacity of the Canandaigua center, calls are automatically routed to one of five backup crisis centers within SAMHSA’s National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which provides help to more than 42,000 callers each month through a network of more than 130 certified crisis centers. Depending on their needs, callers are linked to local emergency, mental health, or social services.