Continued from page 1

From the call center, counselors instantly can check a veteran’s medical records and then connect the caller to local VA suicide-prevention coordinators for follow-up, monitoring and care at local VA medical centers. Ms. Kemp said that since the hot line started, 106 veterans have been steered to free medical care from the VA.

She said the hot line was put in place specifically for those veterans who don’t get enough help until it’s too late.

“They have indicated to us that they are in extreme danger, either they have guns in their hand or they’re standing on a bridge, or they’ve already swallowed pills,” she said.

Ms. Kemp said 1,221 veterans who were in such situations were rescued during the hot line’s first year.

The VA is preparing for the eventual return of a large number of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. This could put added stress on the mental health screening program for returning veterans, which could lead to a rise in undiagnosed mental health issues. The VA recently got enough money to double its suicide-prevention staff and is planning to hire 212 more people soon.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day by calling 800/273-TALK (8255); veterans should press “1” after being connected.