Leaving no one behind

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Florida Chapter helps veteran in crisis

The morning of Sept. 23 started out normally in the offices of DAV Florida Chapter 86, until a voice mail left for the Chapter the night prior changed everything.

“I was sitting at my desk when [Chapter Adjutant] Dennis Vello came to me concerning a message left on our phone lines,” said Chapter Service Officer Joey Boyles. “He told me it was quite disturbing and thought I should listen. When we played it back, we heard someone claiming he needed help. He was begging for help and stated he was ready to end it all, as he was tired of living.”

According to the VA’s 2012 Suicide Data Report, 22 veterans per day—roughly 8,000 per year—take their own lives, so the Chapter knew the urgency and importance of addressing the situation. Boyles wasted no time in returning the man’s call.

“He was very distraught about certain events in his life and was begging for assistance,” said Boyles. “We could tell his attitude had not changed, and I am convinced he would have hurt himself if given the opportunity. I knew we had to do more.”

Chapter Commander Ray Parker made the decision to call the Veterans Crisis Line, which took immediate action and through its resources was able to identify the veteran and his whereabouts, closing the gap to get the veteran the help he needed and deserved.

“Congratulations to DAV Chapter 86 for their team’s efforts in executing professional triage to a veteran-incrisis, which ultimately resulted in saving a life,” said Florida’s Sixth District Congressman Ron DeSantis. “Their skillful communication with the veteran and their prompt execution of suicide prevention protocols ensured proper authorities were notified and immediate action taken.”

“The veteran who called upon us had the fortitude, initiative and clear thinking to reach us,” said Parker. “I respect him for reaching out. Vello triaged the situation, Boyles addressed the matter, and the crisis line took care of the situation. The system and process work. We had the knowledge, the skill, the ability, as well as the caring insight and desire to help this veteran.

“I think Chapter 86 showed a life can be saved when we’re looking out for each other and when we all stay well-informed of the resources available,” said National Commander Moses A. McIntosh Jr. “As the holidays are upon us, it’s important that we’re thinking of our fellow veterans and family members who may be in crisis. Being prepared to listen and connect them with the help they need can make all the difference.”

The first step in preventing suicide is recognizing and understanding the warning signs.

“Families and friends are often the first to notice when a veteran or service member is going through a difficult time,” said Dr. Caitlin Thompson, Deputy Director of the VA’s suicide prevention program. “The most important thing that any veteran or service member and their families should know is that we care—we’re here to listen. Taking the first step to reach out—whether that’s a call, text, chat or conversation—can lead to veterans finding the care that they’ve earned and deserve.”

Learn More Online

To reach the Veterans Crisis Line, call 800-273-8255 and press 1 to talk to a live person, chat online at www.veteranscrisisline.net/chat, or text 838255 for free, confidential support. The crisis line is open 24 hours a day year-round.