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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Warrior Gateway Supporting Student Veterans of America at National Conference

Members of the Warrior Gateway team will be attending “The 4th Annual National Conference presented by Student Veterans of America,” December 8-10, 2011 in Las Vegas, NV.  This will be a great opportunity to connect with student veterans, their families, and the organizations and institutions assisting them.  To see the event schedule, register, and learn more information, click here.

Opening remarks and guest speakers include: Eric Shinseki, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Col. David Sutherland, Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Kevin Schmiegel, Vice President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  The conference theme is “Combating Veteran Unemployment,” which is a predominant issue right now for veterans nationwide.  One of the conference highlights will be the career fair on Friday, which will involve Student Veterans of America partnering with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and RecruitMilitary to bring employers from across many different sectors together that want to hire veterans.  Top tier employers will be in attendance, such as veteran friendly employers Booz Allen Hamilton and General Electric.  Attendees are encouraged to bring multiple copies of their resume and employers are asked to bring national and local job opportunities.

We will provide a live feed from the event through social media, so stay in touch!  If you are attending, or know someone who is, please connect with us. We are excited to network with as many student veterans, military families, and other organizations as we can.

Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin and join the conversation!

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Warrior Gateway will be supporting veterans continuing higher education and employment next week at the 4th Annual Student Veterans of America National Conference in Las Vegas, NV.  http://www.warriorgateway.info/?p=2958

Warrior Gateway Announces the G.I. Network: A Nation of Support. One Network

VETERANS TO BENEFIT FROM PARTNERSHIP AND INNOVATION BETWEEN NON-PROFITS, GOVERNMENT

Washington, DC – Today, Warrior Gateway announces the G.I. Network: A Nation of Support. One Network, the largest free network available designed to connect hundreds of thousands government programs and vetted non-profits, with the millions of veterans in the US.

Available in January 2012, the G.I. Network will connect veterans and their families with more than 220,000 government and non-profit organizations as well as with each other.  The G.I. Network has been piloted over the last year with several Warrior Gateway non-profit and government partners to provide a collection of free tools and services to help veterans and military families find and connect with education, employment, health and wellness programs.

“Warrior Gateway has a history of providing innovative technology solutions designed to help veterans and their families,” said Devin B. Holmes, CEO of Warrior Gateway.  “Veterans tell us that there are too many disconnected resource websites.  The G.I. Network is the game changer that solves this problem.  It provides a solution to network all those resource websites and help people connect in a meaningful way.  Developed in response to the Joining Forces initiative, the G.I. Network helps each of us connect with veterans and their families in our communities.”

The G.I. Network will launch in January 2012. For more information about participating and to be notified of the public launch, please visit: www.GINetwork.org.

About G.I. Network: A Nation of Support. One Network.: Publicly launching January 2012, the G.I. Network connects hundreds of thousands non-profits and government programs as well as millions of veterans under one network.  A program of Warrior Gateway, the G.I. Network harnesses state-of-the art technology to create the largest free network for today’s veterans to connect in their local community.

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook!

Sea of Goodwill Series: The inTransition Program: Maintaining Continuity of Care through Transitions

The transition to civilian life for service members can be complicated, and if they are also receiving mental health treatment, the challenges multiply. They can find themselves wondering, “How do I continue with my treatment? What support services are available as I transition? Who can I turn to in an emergency?”  The inTransition Program can help answer these and many other questions.

inTransition is a collaboration between the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to bridge the potential gaps in behavioral health support during transitional periods—gaps that can lead to service members’ disengagement from treatment or deterioration of their health status. The program provides a personal coach who will support the service member through the transitional period and help identify community resources.

Enrollment into the program can be initiated by the service member or through referral from a servicemember’s current provider or case manager. All it takes is one phone call to 1-800-424-7277.

Once servicemembers confirm their participation in the inTransition program, they are connected with a transition support coach, who provides one-on-one support by phone. Coaches help service members connect with their new provider and locate local community resources, support groups, crisis intervention services and other assistance in the servicemember’s new location. Coaches do not replace the functions of case managers, but rather facilitate the access to and utilization of health services.

Our goal is ensure servicemembers continue their care without interruption. Join us Aug. 19, 2010 from 2:30 – 3:00 p.m. (CDT) for free, web-based training on inTransition. To learn more about inTransition, or register for our August webinar, please visit www.health.mil/intransition.


This post was authored by Dr. Lolita O’Donnell.  Dr. Lolita O’Donnell is the Acting Director of the Clearinghouse, Outreach and Advocacy Directorate at the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (dcoe.health.mil).

Sea of Goodwill Series: National Resource Directory: Trusted Support for Wounded Warriors and Veterans

As the United States continues to fight the longest war in our nation’s history, thousands of wounded warriors, Veterans and their families are dealing with a myriad of physical, emotional and financial issues as they transition back to life at home.  The private and public sectors have responded with overwhelming support and action.  Hundreds of new non-governmental organizations have sprung up in response to the unique needs of wounded warriors and Veterans.  How does a wounded warrior or Veteran navigate this “Sea of Goodwill?”

One option available is the National Resource Directory. A collaboration of the Departments of Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs, the National Resource Directory, or NRD, is a free online tool designed to empower wounded warriors, Veterans, their families and others who support them with access to more than 11,000 resources at the national, state and local levels.

The National Resource Directory leverages the tremendous local support alive in our communities today by featuring resources from organizations in both government and non-government sectors.  However, to be listed on the National Resource Directory, non-governmental organizations must follow a participation policy based on relevance and appropriateness.  Submissions are reviewed by a team of Veterans and subject matter experts to ensure quality resources are available to our wounded warriors and Veterans.  Reintegration back to civilian life is complex and sometimes challenging – our goal with the NRD is to reduce time spent looking for answers about key aspects of transition like education, employment, healthcare, mentorship, housing, and family support.

We encourage you to get involved, speak up and welcome wounded warriors and Veterans home with high quality support services.

Here are some great ways to stay informed about new resources in your community:

1)    Sign up to receive weekly e-mail updates from the NRD.

2)    Become a Facebook fan to read our latest news and share resources or feedback.

3)    Check out information by state or territory – if you know of resources to add, let us know.


Visit today: www.NationalResourceDirectory.gov


This post was authored by Dr. Karen Guice.  Dr. Karen Guice is the Executive Director of the Veterans Affairs Federal Recovery Coordination Program.