Suicide Prevention is Everyone’s Business. This is the most important message we can relay to Veterans, friends, family members, loved ones, VA staff and all of those in the community.

There are many programs in the Minneapolis VA that partner with communities to provide information and educate the public on how they can recognize the signs of a suicidal crisis. Part of engaging in community outreach is to also provide materials that include the Veterans Crisis Line phone number.

These can also include resources and contact information for specific programs developed to assist Veterans with improving their mental health.

Crisis Line phone number on outreach items

When we go into the community for an event or specific training, we always make sure to bring “swag” with the Veterans Crisis Line number that the Veteran or their loved one can use.

“Swag” are items such as tote bags, key chains, pop sockets, flashlights, stress balls, bandanas, etc. Often, we never know how these are being used or if they are helpful. Recently, while talking to one very proud Iraq War Veteran, we heard one positive story.

We were prepared to ask him the regular questions: “Are you enrolled in VA health care?” or “What branch of the military did you serve?”

Before we could get those questions out, he shared the story of how a Veteran’s Crisis Line bandana saved his battle buddy’s life.

The Veteran was with his dog, Frankie, at a local park one morning when he received a phone call from a battle buddy who was in his same unit in Iraq. The friend was not doing well and was talking about how he didn’t know if he could continue with life and that there was no point to living anymore.

Remembered bandana on his dog

The Veteran recognized these comments as signs of a suicidal crisis. He spent 30 minutes on the phone with his friend and tried to help him. He didn’t know what else to do, since his friend lived in a different state and the Veteran didn’t know any local resources to help friend.

The Veteran then remembered that the bandana he picked up at a previous outreach event was on his dog and this bandana had the Veterans Crisis Line phone number on it. The Veteran was able to give his battle buddy the direct phone number to the Veterans Crisis Line and made him promise that he would call once they were done talking.

He explained that his battle buddy did in fact call the Veterans Crisis Line and was able to get help at his local VA Medical Center. The bandana on his dog saved his friend’s life and he thanked us at VA for doing outreach to get this message in the hands of Veterans so they can help other Veterans.

*The goodest girl in the photo with this blog post belongs to a member of the Public Affairs team. Her name is Frankie, and she is a Red Fox Lab. She volunteered for the photo to help tell the story.

By Eric Wittenberg is an Army Veteran and the Minneapolis VA Suicide Prevention coordinator

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Published on Feb. 13, 2022

Estimated reading time is 2.6 min.

Views to date: 1,272


  1. David February 18, 2022 at 11:36 am

    Have the number, where do I get a bandana?

  2. Yep it's Me February 17, 2022 at 11:38 pm

    WOW! I’ve called it myself on different occasions when I was having hallucinations, manic, depressed, and suicidal. Although I see doctors and take medicine regularly for my mental illnesses, that doesn’t make me 100% symptom free, and the crisis line was there for me after dr. hours were closed. They let me know “YOU ARE NOT ALONE” and “THERE IS HOPE FOR YOU.” Those statements are More Powerful than Any med. :)

  3. Francisco Licon February 17, 2022 at 8:43 pm

    Wonderful story. People we are unaware of need just a nodge sometimes, to help them take the next step. Yes we should always be on the lookout for our friends that might be in a like, situation.

  4. Deanna Sinclair-Parker February 17, 2022 at 6:03 pm

    Fantastic report! When my service dog was just 1.5 years old, he saved my life when I was suicidal!! My husband and I had been outside cutting and stacking wood all morning. I told my husband I needed to go in and get a quick snack, and some water. When I got into the kitchen I ‘lost it’. To this day, I still don’t know what triggered it?? I ended up curled up in the corner, bawling incessantly, with those terrible thoughts that creep in. My service dog was in my face, licking away my tears, practically sitting on me. His front paws on my shoulders, snuggling as close as he could get. He stayed so close to me until I calmed down and my suicidal thoughts stopped. I have to say; calling anyone at that moment-wasn’t even in my thought pattern. It was having my service dog there that made a difference that day. The next day, I told my trainer, she told me that I HAD to call the VA and talk with my caregivers, which I did. I was seen within an hour! I’ve not had an incident since.
    I needed to tell my story. The reason is to point out that when you are in THAT state of mind, the many options we are given for ‘help’, don’t necessarily run through your mind. Thanks!

  5. Laura Lou Marbut February 14, 2022 at 8:53 pm

    What an awesome, uplifting story. Well done, VA.

Comments are closed.

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