March 2023 marked a record number of calls and texts received by the Veterans Crisis Line,which provides assistance to veterans and service members who are experiencing mental health crises.
According to data compiled by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Veterans Crisis Line had a record 88,092 contacts in March. The growth was mostly due to a steep jump in veterans using chat and text options to reach the line.
There has been a steady increase in the number of contacts made with the Veterans Crisis Line since 2020, and 2023 is on pace to set another record.
2020: 775,471 contacts
2021: 819,394 contacts
2022: 895,944 contacts
2023 (January-March): 249,554 contacts
The reasons behind the increase could be both good and bad, according to Terrence Hayes, press secretary for Veterans Affairs.
“This is both troubling because it means many Veterans are in need of assistance, and hopeful, because it means that those Veterans are getting the help they need at the moment they need it,” Hayes wrote.
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In 2020, the hotline’s number was shortened to 988, and then pressing 1.
“Since the launch of the 988, there has been a consistent increase in VCL and suicide hotline calls, texts, and messages across the board,” Hayes wrote. “We’ve also been aggressively reaching out to Veterans – in media, advertising, and in person – to raise awareness for this simplified hotline number. This has resulted in all-time records for VCL contacts in September 2022, December 2022, January 2023, and March 2023.”
From January 2020 through March 2023, the hotline has had over 997,000 calls, with two-thirds of them being a veteran. Family members accounted for 114,254 of the calls and friends accounted for 31,149.
A plurality of the calls, 21.8%, were among those ages 60-69. Ages 50-59 made up 18.07% of the calls while ages 30-39 had 18.74%.
In addition to the Veterans Crisis Line, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been working on more localized approaches to suicide prevention. Last month, the VA announced $52.5 million in grants for community-based organizations that provide or coordinate suicide prevention services for veterans and their families.
The VA is accepting applications for grants through May 19, and will award eligible entries Sept. 30.
If you need to talk to someone, reach out to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org.
This national network of local crisis centers provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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