Suicide Prevention is Everyone’s Business. This is the most important message we can relay to Veterans, friends, family members, loved ones, VA staff and all of those in the community.
There are many programs in the 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 to also provide materials that include the Veterans Crisis Line phone number.
These can also include resources and contact information for specific programs developed to assist Veterans with their improving mental health.
Crisis Line phone number on outreach items
When we go into the community for an event or specific training, we always make sure to bring “swag” with the Veterans Crisis Line number that the Veteran or their loved one can use.
“Swag” are items such as tote bags, key chains, pop sockets, flashlights, stress balls, bandanas, etc. Often, we never know how these are being used or if they are helpful. Recently, while talking to one very proud Iraq War Veteran, we heard one positive story.
We were prepared to ask him the regular questions: “Are you enrolled in VA health care?” or “What branch of the military did you serve?”
Before we could get those questions out, he shared the story of how a Veteran’s Crisis Line bandana saved his battle buddy’s life.
The veteran was with his dog, Frankie, at a local park one morning when he received a phone call from a battle buddy who was in his same unit in Iraq. The friend was not doing well and was talking about how he didn’t know if he could continue with life and that there was no point to living anymore.
Remembered bandana on his dog
The Veteran recognized these 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 lived in a different state and the Veteran didn’t know any local resources to help friend.
The Veteran then remembered that the bandana he picked up at a previous outreach event was on his dog and this bandana had the Veterans Crisis Line phone number on it. The Veteran was able to give his battle buddy the direct phone number to the Veterans Crisis Line and made him promise that he would call once they were done talking.
He explained that his battle buddy did in fact call 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 in the hands of Veterans so they can help other Veterans.
*The best girl in the photo with this blog post belongs to a member of the Public Affairs team. Her name is Frankie, and she is a Red Fox Lab. She volunteered for the photo to help tell the story.