Suicide prevention among veterans is a top clinical priority for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA health care system, in collaboration with other community-based organizations, Veterans service organizations, and healthcare providers, offers a variety of resources to protect and support our servicemembers.
The Veterans Crisis Line is a crucial resource in preventing suicide among servicemembers. It offers caring and qualified responders, many of whom are Veterans themselves, ready to provide free and confidential support 24/7. If you or someone you know is in crisis, you can call 988 and select 1, or text 838255, or visit the Veterans Crisis Line website. Additionally, you can always call 911, go to the nearest emergency room, or head directly to the nearest VA medical center if immediate assistance is needed.
For Veterans who may not be enrolled in the VA health care system, the VA may still be able to provide or cover the cost of emergency mental health care and up to 90 days of related services. To be eligible for this support, the Veteran must be at risk of immediate self-harm and meet specific criteria, such as being a victim of sexual assault, battery, or harassment while serving in the armed forces, having served on active duty for more than 24 months with an honorable discharge, or serving more than 100 days under a combat exclusion or in support of a contingency operation with an honorable discharge.
If seeking help at a non-VA emergency department, it is crucial to inform the staff that you are a Veteran and ask them to contact the VA promptly.
The VA offers valuable self-help resources to empower servicemembers to overcome challenges and improve their mental well-being. Make the Connection is a platform where real Veterans and their family members share stories of strength and recovery. Additionally, specialized training tools are available to assist with problem-solving, anger management, parenting skills, and more.
For example, VA SAVE Training prepares individuals to respond with care and compassion when encountering a Veteran in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts. The training puts emphasis on recognizing signs of suicidal thinking, directly asking about suicidal thoughts, validating the Veteran’s experiences, and encouraging treatment.
The VA provides a range of effective treatment options delivered by professionals who specialize in Veterans’ mental health. Evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, problem-solving therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and safety planning intervention, have significantly reduced suicide-related thoughts and behaviors for many patients.
Furthermore, VA suicide prevention coordinators are available to offer counseling and services, ensuring Veterans have access to ongoing support. Vet centers also provide additional guidance and resources to help someone readjust to civilian life after returning from combat.
Preventing suicide among our Veterans is a collective responsibility beyond the VA health care system. The availability of resources like the Veterans Crisis Line, emergency mental health care coverage, self-help programs, evidence-based therapies, and ongoing support can protect the mental well-being of our nation’s heroes and ensure they receive the care they deserve.