‘You are never alone’ — NJ helpline looks to reach more veterans in despair
PISCATAWAY — Since the coronavirus pandemic took hold of the Garden State, call volume to the national Vets4Warriors helpline, based right here in New Jersey, has increased by 18%.
Compared to the year prior, new individuals reaching out to the peer support network increased in fiscal year 2021 by more than 50%.
And the experts behind the operation feel that still not enough veterans and their caregivers know about the help that's available around the clock.
"Isolation, loneliness, anxiety, depression, financial situations — our goal is to help individuals before their situation gets to a point of crisis," retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Mark Graham, Vets4Warriors executive director, told New Jersey 101.5.
Vets4Warriors, based at the Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care National Call Center, is staffed by veterans and supported by licensed clinicians. Every call is answered within 30 seconds.
"There's a veteran that's going to answer the phone 24 hours a day and talk to you," Graham said. "They've got shared lived experiences and they can connect to you."
The network, in honor of its 10-year anniversary, recently launched a digital billboard in Times Square so that veterans, service members, and their families know that they "are never alone," Graham said.
Graham said most contact these days comes from post-9/11 veterans.
Part of the growth in call volume, Graham added, is attributed to their pivot from traditional marketing to a digital approach. Also, the pandemic forced many related organizations to limit their in-person contact with veterans, and they instead turned clients to Vets4Warriors.
You can make contact with Vets4Warriors by phone, email, online chat, email, text and social media. A mobile app is coming soon. The number is 855-838-8255.
Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.