Fighting military suicides with peer counseling

(CBS News) The Pentagon granted a six-month extension Wednesday to a pilot call-in program for American military personnel considering suicide.

The suicide rate among both active-duty troops and reservists is alarming, and it's increased dramatically this year.

One effort to save troubled lives is led by veterans who understand the problem all too well.

Marine reservist Tim Arora served in 2006 near Fallujah, Iraq. He saw some of the most intense fighting of the war.

Arora returned with deep psychological wounds so severe he requested a service dog for companionship and comfort.

"I was thinking of suicide pretty much on a daily basis," Tim said. "Now it's just how I help others with it."

Arora works at a call center at New Jersey's University of Medicine with 25 other veterans. It's called "Vets 4 Warriors." It's a place veterans can call to talk confidentially with other vets. They get 300 calls a week here.

Arora said that being a peer counselor is good for him, adding " it's helping yourself, having closure on your own issues, knowing that hopefully what you've gone through benefited you and now can benefit someone else."

Vets 4 Warriors website Hotline: 1-855-838-8255
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About 40 percent of the callers are at risk of suicide.

Linda Bean
Linda Bean
CBS News

"When they come home they come home to their communities. They are not coming home to army bases or military mental health centers. They're coming home to their parents," said Linda Bean, whose son Coleman committed suicide in 2008 after two tours in Iraq.

He killed himself on the 8th anniversary of his enlistment in the Army.

"He went to the fridge and talked to his father, and gave me a hug and a kiss and walked out the door. And the next morning we got a call that he had shot and killed himself in his apartment. And our life turned upside down," Linda said.

Linda Bean is now an advocate for the peer counseling Vets 4 Warriors provides. The Pentagon has committed to funding this program until next spring, but bean is lobbying to make it permanent.

"We owe Coleman a duty. If we don't stand up for these young people, who is going to do that?" Linda asked.

When the phone rings, Tim said he thinks to himself: "just take a deep breath, answer the phone. You know, the majority of us know what it's like to go living day-to-day in fear. We don't think you're crazy, you know, we just want to help being one vet to another."

The veterans are answering another call of duty to save lives.

  • Elaine Quijano

    Elaine Quijano was named a CBS News correspondent in January 2010. Quijano reports for "CBS This Morning" and the "CBS Evening News," and contributes across all CBS News platforms. She is based in New York.

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