Fort Hood Adopts N.J. Veterans Suicide Hotline
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
F: So to provide support and help to its soldiers, it contracted with a veterans' hotline in New Jersey. Nancy Solomon has the story.
NANCY SOLOMON: But when Arnold eases himself down into his cubicle at the New Jersey State Medical School to answer a call from a soldier in trouble, this bear of a man is more cuddly than fierce.
SOLOMON: Oh wow. So what can we do for you here?
SOLOMON: Arnold has been a peer counselor at New Jersey's Vet-2-Vet hotline since it began six years ago.
SOLOMON: Do you have medical issues that you're working on also?
SOLOMON: The New Jersey program has donated its services to Fort Hood in hopes it can replicate the success it's had reducing stress and suicides for New Jersey vets.
SOLOMON: What we do here is extremely basic. It's caring about people. What a novel idea. And when people find out that they can call 24 hours a day, there's a live voice, when they get a follow-up call, when they get somebody who does what they say they're going to do - I told this girl at 12:30 in the morning that I was going to call her back today and help her, and I just did.
SOLOMON: The model is simple, says Christopher Kosseff, who directs the program at New Jersey's University of Medicine and Dentistry. He says soldiers coping with the trauma of war feel more comfortable talking to a vet, anonymously if they choose. That helps them get past the stigma of admitting they need therapy.
SOLOMON: There are times when the issues exceed the skill set of the peer counselor, and that's the time where we need to have them hand it off. We always have trained mental health professionals available to do a warm hand-off of a call should it require that.
SOLOMON: He likes the idea of a vet on the other end of the line who has walked in that soldier's boots being combined with university-directed therapeutic services. Braverman says Fort Hood is trying to address everything from financial stress or sleeplessness to more severe mental health problems.
SOLOMON: This is one mechanism or tool that we're putting in place in order to try to fit somewhere in that continuum, to try to keep people from getting into situations that lend themselves to risky behaviors. And that's really what we want to do.
SOLOMON: For NPR News, I'm Nancy Solomon.
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