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The Veterans Crisis Line: An Effort From Indiana to Improve It

The line could keep someone you know from committing suicide. Rep. Jim Banks says collecting data could help make it better.

WASHINGTON, D.C.--If you know someone who has served in the U.S. military, then you know someone who statistics say is more likely to commit suicide than the average Joe. Indiana's Jim Banks (R) is working in Congress to improve the Veterans Crisis Line, to keep that from happening.

“Every day, 20 veterans die from suicide,” said Banks to the House Veterans Affairs Committee. “The Veterans Crisis Line is a critical resource the VA provides for veterans who are in mental distress. However, we need to analyze its data to ensure veterans are being connected to further help after their initial phone call."

He said veterans are 22 percent more likely to commit suicide and female veterans are two and a half times more likely than civilian women to die from suicide.

Banks said he wants the Dept. of Veterans Affairs to use data analytics to improve the Veterans Crisis Line to ensure that people get the help they need during the call and after the call is over.

"We must ensure that our veterans know they are not alone after the phone call. Suicide attempts usually result from mental health concerns that require further care to find complete resolution," said Banks. He believes that analyzing data collected during calls from 2014 through the end of next year will help with better getting people that help.

Banks said that your privacy will be maintained.

"Through talks with veteran service organizations I have learned of their concerns for veterans' information privacy. I share this concern for privacy and seek to maintain it. That is why this bill will not change the nature of the phone conversations. Veterans who wish to are still able to maintain anonymity," said Banks.

The Veterans Crisis Line connects veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified VA responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat or text. The Line has received more than 2.3 million calls and 55,000 texts since the VA implemented it in 2007.

"We cannot continue to lose veterans to the scourge of suicide once they safely return home from action," said Banks.

PHOTO: Thinkstock/Marjan Apostolovic

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