In a tough year when many people are experiencing isolation, hardship or loss, a simple letter can provide a beacon of hope.

This humble approach may seem like a drop in the bucket for a problem as challenging as suicide, but studies have shown that these types of letters can make a difference.

VA’s Caring Letters Program is a suicide prevention intervention that involves sending periodic messages with simple expressions of care and concern to Veterans who use VA health care and contact the Veterans Crisis Line (VCL).

It’s still too early to tell what the ultimate impact will be for the Caring Letters Program. Still, VCL has received positive feedback from Veterans and providers.

One Veteran recipient who is enrolled in the program said, “It felt good and comforting to know that my fellow brothers were there for me.”

Another recipient said, “I felt encouraged. I felt refreshed that my life does have meaning and that there are people charged with making sure my needs are met.”

Reaching Veterans in every state

The scale of the project is impressive.

“Initially we thought we would reach 90,000 Veterans in the first year, but we ended up reaching over 100,000 Veterans, with over 530,000 letters mailed so far,” said Dr. Lisa Kearney, director of VCL.

Caring Letters are reaching Veterans across the country in every state and beyond. They are mailed once a month for the first four months after a Veteran calls the VCL and every other month after that, with an extra card for Veteran’s Day.

Reaching out to Veterans quickly and following up over the year is important. Data shows the rate of suicide for VCL callers is higher than the general Veteran population. That’s especially true in the first few months after they call.

We want each Veteran to know they are not alone

Before this effort started, Veterans provided input on the style of the cards, which include the seals of the military service branches. The brief messages are mailed in greeting card-style blue envelopes. They share supportive comments that show an interest in the wellbeing of the Veteran. And they remind them that help is available if they ever need it.

Although the letters have gone to thousands of Veterans, the people behind them and signing off are real and so is the intent.

“We care about every Veteran who calls the Veterans Crisis Line,” Kearney said. “We want each Veteran out there to know they are not alone. There are people they can call for information, resources, or support.”

An evaluation is underway to examine the effectiveness of the program. Suicide prevention is the top clinical priority for VA. VCL is dedicated to continuing to expand critical crisis intervention work to help reduce Veteran suicide.

Learn more about VA’s suicide prevention resources and programs.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line. Receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. 

Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.

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10 Comments

  1. Kathy Walton August 20, 2021 at 11:55 am

    I make cards. I would love to donate them to your organization. My husband and I are both disabled Navy Veterans.

  2. SSG Larry W Hauger August 13, 2021 at 12:46 pm

    I wish more companies would follow this trend. Thank you. I have been sending caring letters to veterans that should seek
    help with the VA, or just a word to encourage. I am a retired veteran. 100% service connected. I was a service officer with the
    Disabled American Veterans at Madison WI. VA assisting veterans to file claims. Details clerk had me to present veterans
    flags to the spouse. Saddest one was a 12 year old boy. I also make personalized flag boxes for burial flags. As the saying goes,
    “I’M NOT A HERO, BUT I’VE WAKED WITH A FEW”.

  3. Dorene Hudson August 13, 2021 at 9:27 am

    This sounds like an exceptional program. My husband is a disabled Vietnam Veteran. I would love to participate in this type of encouragement to our veterans. Is there information available that could be sent to me on how can volunteer to assist with writing letters to our veterans that need help and encouragement through their life’s journey? If so, please send it my way, as I love to write. Thank you.

  4. Izzy Abbass August 10, 2021 at 9:36 am

    Great idea and you all continue to build on new and more outreach to reduce suicide ideation. You should also take a big victory lap as this marks the 10th anniversary of the Text Line – 838255. It launched on November 3 2011.

  5. Terry Bohannon August 9, 2021 at 8:05 pm

    Awesome program!!

  6. Christina Danielle Thundathil August 6, 2021 at 3:04 pm

    Way to go in using your head VA.
    This is indeed beautiful, smart and articulate.

    I wouldn’t mind actually helping you write some letters. Maybe to men and women who have been victims of rape or a veteran facing a critical illness that threatens their life. I can relate to this and could encourage them.

    This is such a great idea and glad to see you doing it. Christina

  7. Janet Skinner August 5, 2021 at 9:28 pm

    Great idea, wish I got a card I had to have services from Veteran’s Crisis line an didn’t get a card.

  8. Janet Skinner August 5, 2021 at 9:26 pm

    I’m a female Veteran of MST. I would like to see Birthday cards an Christmas cards sent out as well. Those are the 2 most important days in my life an people don’t realize we need those days acknowledged as well. You could be estranged from your family for a number of reasons,but everyone wants to know someone always remembers their birthday an them on Christmas. If nothing more than a hello thinking of you today, with a smile.

  9. Bob Mulholland August 5, 2021 at 7:38 pm

    The more contact with veterans living alone, the better and that means the rest of us reaching out, besides the VA.

  10. Michael Millstone August 5, 2021 at 5:52 pm

    I am a retired Air Force member and would like to discover any opportunities to get involved in the VA Caring Letters Program as a volunteer.

Comments are closed.

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