WASHINGTON (Army News Service, July 30, 2007) - To ensure veterans with emotional crises have round-the-clock access to trained professionals, the Department of Veterans Affairs has opened a national suicide prevention hot line for veterans.

"Veterans need to know these VA professionals are literally a phone call away," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson. "All servicemembers who experience the stresses of combat can have wounds on their minds as well as their bodies. Veterans should see mental-health services as another benefit they have earned, which the men and women of the VA are honored to provide."

The toll-free hot line number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). VA\'s hot line will be staffed by mental health professionals in Canandaigua, N.Y. They will take toll-free calls from across the country and work closely with local VA mental-health providers to help callers.

To operate the national hot line, VA is partnering with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the Department of Health and Human Services.

"The hot line will put veterans in touch - any time of the day or night, any day of the week, from anywhere in the country - with trained, caring professionals who can help," added Sec. Nicholson. "This is another example of the VA's commitment to provide world-class health care for our nation's veterans, especially combat veterans newly returned from Iraq and Afghanistan."

The suicide hot line is among several enhancements to mental-health care that Sec. Nicholson has announced this year. In mid-July, the department's top mental-health professionals convened here to review the services provided to veterans of the war on terror.

VA is the largest provider of mental health care in the nation. This year, the department will spend about $3 billion for mental-health. More than 9,000 mental-health professionals, backed up by primary-care physicians and other health professionals in every VA medical center and outpatient clinic, provide mental-health care to about one million veterans each year.