A suicidal Air Force veteran says he almost ended his life while on hold with the Veterans Suicide Hotline. The vet says he was considering suicide as he desperately missed his wife who recently passed away from cancer, so he dialed the hotline number. However, all he received was a recorded message. In total, the veteran says he was on hold for 10 minutes on three separate occasions during the call, all of this while he was seriously contemplating killing himself.
According to ABC Action News, Air Force veteran Tom Koran was on the verge of ending his own life when he made a desperate call to the Veterans Crisis Hotline put in place to help veterans with suicidal thoughts. However, when Koran called the number, instead of getting a person that could talk him down from committing the act, he received an audio recording. Koran says he almost went ahead and ended his life as he sat on hold waiting to speak with a hotline worker. In total, Koran says he was placed on hold three separate times for 10 minutes each.
“I had to sit there patiently, in emotional distress, in tears, wanting to give up, desperately needing someone to talk to.”
Koran’s experience highlights a growing problem in healthcare and Veteran’s Affairs services for military veterans. The Daily Mail notes that suicide rates are high among veterans and that the suicide hotline is now at a breaking point, unable to handle the high volume of calls.
“Despite statistics which say 22 veterans end their lives every day across the US, depressed former soldiers are still being put on hold by helplines.
Reports indicate that nearly 1,000 phone calls are made to the Veterans Crisis Hotline each day. With just 52 operators present to handle the calls, many veterans may find themselves being placed on hold waiting for an operator to speak to them during their time of need.
Fortunately for Koran, as he sat on hold, he remembered a reason to keep on living. Koran and his wife ran an animal rescue group together and Koran had 60 animals in his care. He realized that if he ended his life, no one would be there to care for the animals that he had worked so hard to save with his wife.
“My wife and I saved them, and they saved me.”
The VA says they are hoping for new technology and more funding from Congress which would allow them to fix all of the problems at the hotline within the next six months. In the meantime, suicidal veterans may find themselves in the same position as Tom Koran, waiting on hold for an operator while they are in desperate need of someone to talk to.
What do you think should be done to ensure veterans such as Koran get the help they need when they are experiencing emotional distress that could lead to suicide?
[Image Credit: Getty Images/ Joe Raedle]