Suicide prevention is everyone’s business. This is the most important message we can deliver to veterans, friends, family members, loved ones, VA staff, and everyone in the community.
There are many programs in Minneapolis VA that partner with communities to provide information and educate the public on how they can recognize the signs of a suicidal crisis. Part of engaging in community outreach is also providing documentation that includes the phone number for the Veterans Crisis Line.
These may also include resources and contact information for specific programs developed to help veterans improve their mental health.
Crisis Line Phone Number on Awareness Items
When we go out into the community for a specific event or training, we always make sure to bring “swag” with the Veteran Crisis Line number that the Veteran or their loved one can use.
Swags are items such as tote bags, keychains, pop plugs, flashlights, stress balls, bandanas, etc. Often we never know how they are used or if they are useful. Recently, in a conversation with a very proud Iraq War veteran, we heard a positive story.
We were ready to ask her the usual questions: “Are you enrolled in VA healthcare?” or “What branch of the military did you serve in?”
Before we can ask those questions, he shared the story of how a veteran’s crisis line bandana saved his fellow fighter’s life.
The veteran was with his dog, Frankie, in a local park one morning when he received a phone call from a fellow combatant who was in his same unit in Iraq. The friend was not well and was talking about the fact that he did not know if he could continue to live and that there was no point in living anymore.
Souvenir bandana on his dog
The veteran recognized those comments as signs of a suicidal crisis. He spent 30 minutes on the phone with his friend and tried to help him. He didn’t know what else to do, since his friend was living in another state and the veteran didn’t know of any local resources to help this friend.
The veteran then remembered that the bandana he picked up at a previous outreach event was on his dog and that bandana had the phone number for the Veterans Crisis Line on it. The veteran was able to give his combat mate the direct phone number for the Veterans Crisis Line and made him promise he would call him once they were done talking.
He explained that his fellow fighter actually called the Veterans Crisis Line and was able to get help at his local VA medical center. The bandana on his dog saved his friend’s life and he thanked us at VA for doing outreach to get this message into the hands of veterans so they can help other veterans.
*The cutest girl pictured with this blog post belongs to a member of the Public Affairs team. Her name is Frankie and she is Red Fox Lab. She volunteered for the photo to help tell the story.