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Sherri Brown

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The American Red Cross Standing Tall Against Suicide

Posted: 09/27/2013 4:20 pm

For more than a century, wherever there's crisis, the American Red Cross has been there.

United by a commitment to service and trusted by people in need, the American Red Cross' international network of staff and volunteers helps in countless ways, making emergency dispatches of people and supplies following natural disasters and embedding personnel on military bases to support our service members.

Aiding our men and women in uniform has always been integral to the American Red Cross' mission. Today, the American Red Cross' professional, compassionate team staffs an Emergency Communications Center dedicated to the military community. Callers in crisis sometimes express thoughts of suicide. In the past year, the Red Cross handled more than 400 suicide-related calls, most from concerned family members and friends.

One mother contacted the Red Cross after receiving troubling messages from her child serving on active duty. The concerned mother was unable to reach the service member. We took immediate action to mobilize the right military support for the service member. Help arrived just in time. Following up, we learned that the mother was a veteran herself, and trusted the Red Cross to provide rapid, coordinated support.

Veteran suicide is a national tragedy that demands everyone's attention, but it's also a complex problem that none of us can solve alone. That's why it's critical that we work together, remaining vigilant for the connections and partnerships that can make a difference. Losing even one veteran or service member is one too many.

The American Red Cross stands proudly with organizations that work to prevent suicide, such as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The Red Cross and Veterans Crisis Line/Military Crisis Line work hand in hand to help make sure that veterans and service members get the help they need, no matter what.

When fielding calls from service members' families concerned about suicide risk, Red Cross caseworkers use emergency procedures to gather information and get in touch with their loved ones, coordinating support through the chain of command. Once the command has ensured the safety of the service member, we follow up by phone to check on him or her.

Throughout this process, the Red Cross updates family members and directs them where to find counseling and guidance. This is where partnerships help most; we often encourage veterans and their loved ones to seek confidential support from the Veterans Crisis Line and Military Crisis Line. The Red Cross and VA share best practices and refer individuals to one another for help, and we provide information about both resources to service members at home and abroad.In times of crisis, there must never be a "wrong number" for a service member in need.

Active duty military personnel who need help can call the American Red Cross at 1-877-272-7337 or Veterans and Military Crisis Lines at 1-800-273-8255, and press 1. Or they can chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net or text to 838255. If you or a family member is concerned about the emotional well-being of the service members or veterans you care about, learn the suicide warning signs.

The American Red Cross operates nationally and globally, but our work is always personal. Our staff and volunteers are also community members -- the children, parents, spouses, friends and neighbors of service members and veterans. No matter where the crisis might be, it matters to us, and we will always be there. More and more members of our military are returning home from combat and deployments; it's up to all of us to look out for them.

This post is part of a special Huffington Post series, "Invisible Casualties," in which we shine a spotlight on suicide-prevention efforts within the military. Every weekday in September, we'll feature a different blog post by someone who is either an expert in the field, who has been affected by a suicide, or who has contemplated suicide. To see all the posts in the series, as well as original reporting, audio and video, click here.

If you or someone you know would like to contribute to our series, send an email to impactblogs@huffingtonpost.com.

And please, if you or someone you know needs help, call the national crisis line for the military and veterans, 1-800-273-8255, or send a text to 838255.

 
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