When Veterans Choose Between a Phone Call and Suicide

On the Line

by Ashley Gilbertson
Aug. 27, 2010

Click image to watch the video:

According to a recent estimate by the C.D.C. an average of eighteen American veterans kill themselves every day. That number accounts for 20 percent of all of suicides in the United States.

These images are of call responders working for the Department of Veteran Affairs in Canandaigua, New York talking vets back from the edge. It’s the frontline of the government’s attempt to curb the rising suicide rate among active duty service members and veterans. The center is the only one of its type in the country, and was established in 2007 by the VA.

That year, the line received about 10,000 callers. In 2008, it received almost 70,000, and in 2009, just under 120,000. By June of this year alone, operators had already taken just under 100,000 calls.

On average, the operators in the center receive over 500 calls every day. After the phone’s hung up, there’s no follow-up, and the operators almost never find out what happened to the veteran they spoke to. They go back to their reading, or Facebook pages, and wait for the phone to ring again.

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