A new smartphone feature enables distressed veterans to reach help faster by calling the Veterans Crisis Line with a voice command.
Veterans and servicemembers now can connect to the Veterans Crisis Line through the Siri or Google Assistant functions on their smartphones, saving them the time and hassle of searching for the phone number. Military and medical leaders have estimated 20 veterans commit suicide each day.
The new smartphone command is a simple feature that could make a difference when seconds matter.
“I think anything that makes it more accessible for anybody that needs help without having to search for it is a great thing,” said Sara Dawdy, CEO of Mission 22, a nonprofit organization founded by Special Forces operators to raise awareness of veteran suicide. “I think that it's great companies are stepping up to support people in crisis because that's what we're all supposed to do.”
Data released by the VA show the average number of veterans who die by suicide each day remained at 20 from 1979 to 2015. They also indicate suicide cannot be attributed to any single cause, but instead is the result of a range of factors, including relationships, substance use, physical health, job, financial, and legal problems, in addition to mental health conditions.
The smartphone feature is the latest effort by the crisis line to connect with distressed veterans.
Since its launch in 2007, the Veterans Crisis Line has answered more than 3.5 million calls, initiating the dispatch of emergency vehicles to imminent crises about 93,000 times. Chat and text services, introduced after launch, have generated more than 397,000 chat requests and 92,000 text services.
“The ability for veterans to connect to the Veterans Crisis Line using just four simple words, and through a technology that so many people are familiar with already, is truly remarkable,” said Matt Miller, director of the Veterans Crisis Line. “While some suicidal crises last a long time, most last minutes to hours. The quicker we can get veterans connected to care, the more likely they are to survive.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, support is available 24/7. Veterans, servicemembers, military family members, and anyone who is concerned can call the Veterans and Military Crisis Line at (800) 273-8255, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/chat, or send a text to 838255.
Amanda Dolasinski is MOAA's staff writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMOAA.