New extension to mental health helpline 988 aims to help veterans

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – With the new three-digit 988 Suicide & Crisis lifeline, mental health resources are more accessible than ever. By simply dialing extension “1”, calls will be directed to a professional counselor who works specifically with veterans.

“There’s a lot going on in the world, and we also have veterans who are still dealing with situations they encountered during their military service,” said Sonya Smith, cabinet secretary for the Department of Veterans Services. New Mexico fighters. “Some veterans are very comfortable talking about things right away, and then you have veterans, it takes a little longer.”

“The idea that this is designed specifically for our veterans is a good thing, she added.

The most recent data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs shows a sharp decline in suicide deaths among veterans between 2017 and 2019.

In New Mexico, Smith said 68 veterans took their own lives in 2019. While that number is lower than in previous years, she said local and national leaders won’t stop working until there’s more. there won’t be zero.

“It’s too much, obviously,” Smith said. “So we want to come up with interventions and strategies on how we can reduce that number, but more importantly, prevent suicides.”

The new 988 lifeline is a big part of that goal, making mental health resources more accessible whenever those who fought for our country need them.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s when they break up, or while they’re currently in service, or even 20 or 30 years later,” Smith said. “The promises that were made to keep them healthy, we have to honor them, and that means we have to commit to being available when they need us because they were there for us when we needed them. “

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