August 2, 2023

Veterans, and those transitioning from active duty, are suffering mental health crises at alarming rates, with a disproportionate number of suicides claiming Veterans lives at the staggering rate of 16 people per day. Being approximately 1.5-3 times higher at risk of ending their lives, this scourge among our military heroes is a public health crisis of the highest priority. In accordance with the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020 – legislation addressing the mental health and suicide epidemic at the national level – a new 3-digit lifeline united the nation’s 200+ crisis centers under a universally accessible, easy-to-remember number providing prompt crisis care.

In July 2022, as a joint effort by the United States’ Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) merged with the Veterans Crisis Line (VCL) and both numbers were converted to a new, more efficient “988” for 24/7 crisis support. With the establishment of the nationwide line, access to professionals providing critical mental health support lends to the intent of inspiring those at risk to benefit from the resources. Appropriately, Veteran assistance is the first option offered to NSPL callers as the automated system prompts the following: “If you are a Veteran, press 1.” This ensures Veterans are promptly routed to a specially trained health service worker at the VCL.

The Visionary Consulting Partners, LLC (Visionary) team is supporting VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention (OMHSP) in evaluating the paid media campaign focused on alerting Veterans of the new access number – Dial 988 then Press 1.

Using both traditional outcomes assessment and contemporary market research, VA and Visionary are exploring trends among Veterans and gauging campaign progress among them, especially higher risk Veterans, to determine the cumulative result of the Dial 988 then Press 1 media campaign having had enough time to increase awareness and usage of the new access number in relation to the actual value associated with paid media.

Evaluation and analysis methods focus on:

1. Awareness – Did the advertisements increase the number of Veterans who know about the Veterans Crisis Line’s new 3-digit access number or were ads noticed primarily by audiences who already knew of the access number.

2. Engagement – Are actions being taken by Veterans to click on ads or initiate contact with the VCL via text, Live chat, calls or social media posts?

Focus Groups and an exploratory survey seek input from Veterans and those transitioning from active duty (ages 18 and over) to understand how Veterans receive and perceive the media campaign and assess the impact of the VCL

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