VA Updates Veteran Crisis Hotline
The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced a major update to the Veteran Crisis Line. If you are a veteran struggling with thoughts of suicide or self-harm, this hotline was created to help. In the past, those reaching out for help had to dial a 1-800 number which is still operational at press time, but a new and easier-to-remember three-digit number makes help even easier to access.
The New Veteran Crisis Line Phone Number
If you are a veteran struggling with thoughts of suicide or you are concerned about a veteran who might be struggling, you can get round-the-clock crisis support through the new Veterans Crisis Line (VCL) number:
- Dial 988
- Press 1
When you dial 9-8-8 and press 1, you are redirected to trained Veteran Crisis Line representatives. These responders are trained in both mental health crisis issues and military culture.
What Happened To The Old Veteran Crisis Line Number?
The former number, 1-800-273-8255, is still active at press time and you still need to dial a 1 after your call is answered. One of the reasons you can still access the 1-800 number is that vets living overseas may not be able to access the new three-digit 9-8-8 option.
Getting Veteran Crisis Line Support From Overseas
As mentioned above, overseas vets can dial 1-800-273-8255 to access the Veteran Crisis Support Line. When dialing overseas, the VA official site advises that international calls may not be free, “depending on the caller’s location and network provider” but overseas vets also have the option to use the Veteran Crisis Line Chat Room (see below).
There are also phone support options for those still on active duty. The Veterans Crisis Line is available in certain locations by calling one of the numbers below.
- Europe: 00800 1273 8255 or DSN 118.
- Korea:0808 555 118 or DSN 118.
- Afghanistan: 00 1 800 273 8255 or DSN 111.
If you do not have or cannot access Veteran Crisis Line support from your location, consider asking for additional resources from a medical professional, First Sergeant, or unit orderly room. If you have a mental health crisis speak to a healthcare professional as soon as possible if your options for phone support are limited.
Why Was The Old Number Phased Out?
The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, which was signed into law in 2020, established 988 as the new three-digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, presumably to offer ease of access similar to dialing 9-1-1.
As a result of this, all telephone services were required to activate this number no later than July 16, 2022, and at press time both numbers (old and new) work the same. As part of the law, all telephone service providers in the U.S. had to activate the number no later than July 16, 2022. The Veteran Crisis Hotline is part of that Lifeline network and as such was affected by the 2020 legislation.
Veterans may now use either number or communicate via text by dialing 838255. There is also an online chat version available at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.
Signs You May Be Having A Mental Health Crisis
What follows is not medical advice but rather a list of circumstances provided by the Veteran Crisis Line. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, call the Crisis Line or contact a medical provider as soon as humanly possible. As the VCL official site reminds us, these symptoms require immediate help. If you are experiencing any of these and need medical attention, call 911 now.
If you need assistance in dealing with a suicidal crisis–your own or someone else’s, contact the Veterans Crisis Line: Dial 988 then Press 1 and report any symptoms below:
- Thinking about hurting yourself
- Thinking of ways to kill yourself
- Looking for ways to kill yourself
- Talking about death, dying, or suicide
- Self-destructive behavior
- Substance abuse
- Excessive risk-taking
Remember, the Veteran Crisis Line can help those who are worried about another veteran as well as the veteran herself. If you are worried about a friend, family member, colleague, or co-worker in uniform, call the VCL for guidance and advice from a trained responder. You are not alone.
About the author
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.