Educating everyone about suicide prevention is key, Liggett said, because a veteran might open up to a groundskeeper or chaplain, rather than a mental health professional.
When a veteran is talking about suicide or seems at risk, the Suicide Prevention Program will be alerted. Even if a veteran attempted or thought about suicide several months ago, the office will be contacted. Liggett or Ellis will contact the veteran to make sure he’s receiving treatment and responding to it.
If a veteran misses an appointment, someone calls to make sure he or she is OK.
“Everyone does a great job assessing veterans,” Liggett said. “I think everyone here is doing well.”
The national crisis line isn’t called the suicide line anymore because a veteran might have a different crisis in his life. For example, a veteran might be despondent over financial woes, legal action, relationship problems or a job loss. Or he might have trouble adjusting to civilian life after years in the military.
Veterans who call the crisis line aren’t necessarily talking about suicide. Sometimes, they just don’t know where else to turn.
“Veterans always say they’re glad to have someone to talk to,” Liggett said.
Sometimes, a veteran can be out of the service several years before he or she feels the need to open up to someone. “When they leave active duty, they’re given a lot of information,” Ellis said. “Their main goal is to re-enter their life.”
It’s a process re-adjusting to civilian life, and a person will have ups and downs.
Considering the number of young veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, the VA added a text feature late last year. The younger vets are more comfortable texting or chatting online, Liggett said.
“I think we’re being proactive and letting the veteran know we’re here,” she said.