The Impact of Technology: Text Messaging to Prevent Suicide Among Young Veterans


 

 

 

Izzy Abbass, Commander of VFW Post 1, is a regular guest blogger for Warrior Gateway.

 

 

Unfortunately, we still lose over 18 Veterans a day to suicide across the US.  Some of these men and women are still wearing the uniform; others have been out for a short time or possibly many years.  However, one thing is common in all cases – easily accessible help may have led to a different outcome.

The Department of Veterans Affairs launched the Veterans Crisis Line four and a half years ago to help curb this epidemic.  The Crisis Line is a 1-800 number with trained counselors available 24 hours a day.  They are now up to over 1,000 calls per day and average 25 rescues a day – a rescue is when they dispatch 911 services to a veteran’s location to save a life.  This is a great service which is having significant impact within our veteran community.  But, how do we more effectively reach younger veterans?

In November, the VA took a bold step to do just that – reach younger veterans through the technology they use – mobile phones.  On November 3rd, a text help line went live connecting veterans to the same counselors via text messaging.   Knowing that the under 30 veteran did not grow up with 1-800 numbers and that they are far more likely to text than to place a phone call, this was seen as a natural next step.

By texting to 838255, veterans receive an automatic text letting them know they’ve connected to the Crisis Center and asking if they are in immediate danger.  At the same time, an alert is sent to the VA Crisis Center and an operator takes control of the discussion through a computer interface.  It is basically instant messaging via text.  This is all completely confidential and there is no cost for the text messages to or from the number which was built by CrossLink Media in San Antonio, Texas.

Since launch, the number of contacts through the text line has grown steadily with over 900 veterans reaching out via text since launch and more than 300 in February alone.  This represents over 30,000 text messages going back and forth.  One reason for its popularity is the confidential nature of texting.  Unlike a phone call which can be overheard, texting can be done with other people around and in fact a number of vets have remarked that they are using the service so they do not wake up their family members.

The goal of the counselors is to still get the veteran on the phone with a counselor and then get them into treatment.  However, since in some cases the veteran does not feel like talking or won’t because of those around them, the text help line serves as a much needed lifeline to these men and women.

While no one believes that this alone will end veteran suicides, it is one more tool that is making an impact.  If you find yourself feeling lost and with thoughts of taking drastic action, reach out to the dedicated men and women who want to help.  Text to 838255 – it can be a single word, a question or just the word help and someone who cares will be there anytime you need them.

 

Izzy Abbass

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/izzyabbass

 

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Tips and Advice – Job Search Strategies for the 21st Century Veteran

 

 

 

This week, we’re happy to introduce a new guest blogger, Izzy Abbass, Commander of VFW Post 1.

 

 

 

 

 

One of the most common concerns I hear from vets every day is “how will I find a job”?  This will only become more frequent as the number of troops; especially those from the Army and Marines are reduced in the next few years.  While it may seem daunting – take heart.  You bring much more to the job market than you give yourself credit for and the key is figuring out how best to reflect that in your profile.

Despite your background, training and career goals, the strategy is the same for everyone, whether senior management, entry level job or mid-career transition:

  1. Create a civilian resume
  2. Build your digital resume – LinkedIn
  3. Build/connect your network
  4. Target and research companies
  5. Portray yourself positively

While this may seem like a huge mountain to climb, it’s not – especially when you break it down into smaller chunks.  The following is a brief overview of the entire process and in future articles we will go into each in more depth.

1. Create a Civilian Resume

Start first by listing everything you’ve done in life in either a work or volunteer capacity.  This includes everything you’ve done in the military, any awards you’ve received and any recognition you’ve been given.  Don’t worry about translating it into civilian speak at first, that will come next.  The goal here is to have a shopping list of items that you can pull from to put into job specific resumes – this becomes your Master Resume.  Don’t worry about length because you are never going to submit to anyone.  For instance, my master resume is 5 pages long.

Next you need to convert your military experience to civilian speak.  We tend to use a lot of acronyms in the military which typically has no relation to anything in the civilian market place and we have jobs that seemingly have no correlation to the civilian world.  First, cut out the acronyms and convert your military job into what the civilian workplace looks at: how many people did you manage, what was the value of the equipment you were responsible for and what recognition did you receive?   Further, every job in the military provides skills employers are looking for.  I was infantry and we don’t have a lot of civilian infantry units running around holding ground.  But I did manage people, I was responsible for many dollars-worth of equipment and I completed assigned tasks on time under stressful conditions.

Finally, with your master resume in hand, you can create job or area specific resumes.  I personally have several versions – Telecommunications, Mobile Technology Specific, Project Management Specific, Marketing Specific, etc.   Do the same as these are the resumes you’ll submit for specific jobs based on the job posting.  You could have ten versions of your resume depending on your interest and what you are looking for, but every one of them is easy to create since you are just pulling from your master.

2. Build Your Digital Resume

Now that you have a master resume, you also need to build your digital resume.  The key tool here is LinkedInLinkedIn is not the same as Facebook – it really is a professional networking site.  Everyone, whether you are still in the military, enrolled in college or already employed should build a profile on LinkedIn.  We could devote several articles to LinkedIn but in a nut shell, here’s the key things to remember:

  • Complete your profile (LinkedIn gives you a completion status for you – max it to 100%)
  • Upload a good face shot – while that shot of you jumping out of a plane is cool, it doesn’t work here.
  • No private profile – don’t make it private as no one will see you.
  • Have lots of recommendations – ask everyone you know and have at least 3
  • Start connecting with people – friends, former bosses former co-workers, people you managed
  • Be active on LinkedIn – check in every day and let people know you are there – join groups
  • Make sure your contact settings are up to date and list basic personal information.

Join today and start exploring.  Find me, find your friends and find a group that interests you.

3. Build Your Network

This is one thing that scares a lot of people but once you get into the groove, it’s pretty easy.  As mentioned above, connect to friends, family, basically everyone on LinkedIn.  Always accept invitations to connect.  Also, join groups on LinkedIn and there are groups for everything.  If you served on the USS Dallas, there’s a group for that.  If you served in the 82nd Airborne, there are half a dozen different groups.  Join them and get into discussions with people, answer questions and connect.  Also, when you meet people in your job search in person, connect with them on LinkedIn when you get back to your computer.

A large number of positions are not even listed anymore and come up in the course of discussion with people you meet or their connections.  Networking is key.  Check for events in your area for networking. Another site – MeetUp – quite often lists networking events in your area.  Also, VSO – Veteran Service Organizations – like the VFW, American Legion, Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America, etc. have events and meetings from time to time.  Check them out and start making connections.

4. Target and Research Companies

Now you are ready to find the companies where you’ll fit and which make a great choice for your next job.  Research the company and find out what they have going on – new stores opening, expansion, new products, etc.  LinkedIn is also good for this as you can connect with people who have worked there or still are.  See if any of them are in your network or groups and connect with them.  In my experience, most people are happy to share information with you.  Everything you find out will be helpful in crafting your cover letter, tailoring your resume and for discussion in the interview.  Also, many companies can be followed on LinkedIn which will keep you up to date on the latest developments and staffing changes.

5. Portray Yourself Positively

No one knows you as well as you do so be your best sales rep.  Remember, all of us as vets have taken those extra steps of service that 99% of the country has not.  Be proud of you and your accomplishments.  This does not mean be arrogant but it does mean be confident.  When you get the interview remember to carry yourself well and be polite.  The key points for any interview are:

  • Be Yourself
  • Clean Appearance and wear a suit/business attire
  • Don’t smoke before the interview – if you smell of smoke, you’re hurting your chances
  • Practice answering questions about yourself – have family and friends interview you
  • Be concise in your answers – provide detail but don’t ramble on forever
  • Interview starts as soon as you enter the parking lot – be polite to everyone you meet including the receptionist and the guy watering plants
  • Be prepared with questions – see above about researching the company
  • Follow up with a thank you – hand written or through e-mail, always say thank you

Again, we’ll go into more detail on each of these issues in the future but this should give you a good road map of things to remember.  You do have to put effort into it but you bring so much more to the table than your civilian counterparts – remember that!

 

Izzy Abbass

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/izzyabbass

 

Re-Tweets

#Job Search Strategies for the 21st Century Veteran: http://ow.ly/9ji5q @WarriorGateway

5 Job Search Strategies for the 21st Century Veteran: http://ow.ly/9ji5q @WarriorGateway