Military suicide hotline calls set record

May 26, 2011 at 6:50 PM
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WASHINGTON, May 26 (UPI) -- Military officials told a U.S. Senate committee the suicide hotline got its highest number of calls ever in April, a total of 14,000.

Antonette Zeiss, the Veterans Administration's acting deputy chief officer of mental health services, told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee the military is looking for ways to encourage troubled soldiers to get help, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported.

"To reduce the stigma of seeking care and to improve access, VA has integrated mental health into primary care settings to provide much of the care that is needed for those with the most common mental health conditions, when appropriate," Zeiss said Wednesday.

The panel also heard from former soldiers including Steven Bohn, who was severely injured in a 2008 bombing in Afghanistan. He described his financial difficulties and trouble getting medical care while saying he is "not by nature a complainer."

Suicides by current and former military members have increased dramatically in recent years. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the committee chairwoman, she has mixed feelings about the number of calls to the hotline.

"While it is heartening to know that these calls for help are being answered, it is a sad sign of desperation and difficulties our veterans face that there are so many in need of a lifeline," she said.

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