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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Text messaging to prevent suicide among young #veterans: http://ow.ly/9CFph #techmonth #guestblog

Reducing Suicides: Over 900 #veterans have reached out via text since November: http://ow.ly/9CFph #techmonth

 

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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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@WarriorGateway supporting @StudentVets national conference in #Vegas: http://ow.ly/7H35R #military #education

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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!

New VA bill established to assist post-9/11 veteran caregivers could fall short

On 5 May 2010 President Obama signed the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, Public Law 111-163. The bill, first of its kind, intends to provide direct assistance to veteran families. However, recent press releases indicate that the bill is in distress. Many articles are quick to fault the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) after the organization missed the 31 January 2011 deadline to start carrying out provisions of the bill, and before that, the 1 November 2010 implementation plan milestone. The VA signed the long-awaited implementation plan on Wednesday 9 February, but the contents of that bill may be falling short of its mark. For instance, only about 10 percent of the intended post-9/11 caregiver population (est. 850) are said to be eligible for assistance.

New benefits – restricted to caregivers of the critically wounded and seriously ill of the post-9/11 veterans – outlined by the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, include: monthly stipend (based on the average home healthcare costs in the veterans hometown), health care coverage, travel expenses (including lodging and per diem while accompanying veterans undergoing care), respite care, and mental health services/counseling.

Among those supporting the bill are the following political figures:

  • Sen. Daniel Akaka (HI)
  • Sen. Richard Burr (NC)
  • Sen. Patty Murray (WA), Chairwoman, Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee
  • Rep. Jeff Miller (FL), Chairman, House Committee on Veteran Affairs

While some of the enhancements are currently available, many will require an issuance of regulations, whereas others will remain unavailable. To date, the VA has given no timeline as to when the services will be available to caregivers. However, under the law, the VA must report to Congress within 2 years about the possibilities of providing the enhanced benefits to all post-9/11 caregivers.

The Warrior Gateway can assist those that are affected by the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 by providing veteran caregivers a place to find assistance services located in their hometown. The free-of-charge Warrior Gateway directory currently has over 100 caregiver assistance organizations available for veterans of all eras.

Please feel free to post comments about this blog and suggest other topics you would like to see covered by the Warrior Gateway Government Relations Blog.

Helping Homeless Veterans

Servicemen and servicewomen put their lives on the line to keep American safe; their fight does not always end when they come home.  Soldier On, a non-profit organization is honoring those who serve America by providing shelter to homeless veterans.

On Tuesday, August 24, 2010, Soldier On purchased the Western Massachusetts Regional Police Academy on Westfield Street in Springfield, MA, for $1!  They plan on converting the building into studio apartments for homeless veterans to live.

Soldier On has been helping homeless veterans since 1994.  With time the organization has moved beyond just helping provide shelter, they have set up Veterans Village projects where former homeless veterans are given the chance to own a home.

If you are currently looking for shelter in the Massachusetts area, visit the Warrior Gateway. If you know of other services that provide veteran assistance add them to our Directory.

To view the original article, Editorial: Bay State Honors Pledge to Veterans, click here.

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