Tuesday, May 31, 2011

VA Campaign to Help Vets in Crisis

ROA was briefed on the Veteran Crisis Line and the Department of Veterans Affairs’s (VA) Suicide Prevention Outreach Campaign led by Reingold, a communications and marketing firm.

The Crisis Line, formerly known as the Veterans Suicide Hotline, was established in 2007. The name was changed to “Crisis Line” to encourage wider utilization. The Crisis Line is open 24/7/365, providing confidential counseling and referrals for veterans and families, and is available to all veterans, regardless of status and whether or not they are registered with the VA.

The VA’s outreach campaign goals are to increase awareness and use of the hotline (1-800-273-8255) and the online chat service, support broader suicide prevention efforts, and promote help-seeking behaviors. There is not a smart phone app at this time, but that may be added in the future. This campaign has been branded with a new logo and identity, has a partnership outreach network, a campaign website, and leverages PSAs and media to raise the profile of the campaign.

The campaign messaging tries to avoid normalizing or glorifying suicide, showcases help-seeking behaviors, promotes individual family and community “connectedness,” stresses confidentiality, and highlights VA leadership.

The target audience includes veterans, specifically OEF/OIF, National Guard and Reserve, and Vietnam-era veterans who have seen an increase in suicides post-9/11; families, friends, and caregivers who can identify the first signs of the need for help; and health care providers. According to Reingold, providers tend to be reluctant to get involved.

Messages include “It’s your call,” “Treatment works,” “Veterans get treatment everyday,” “Take charge,” and “We need you.”

The latest numbers from the National Institute of Mental Health show that suicide has surpassed combat death as a cause of mortality in the military.

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