Overview: According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, one veteran dies by suicide in America every 80 minutes. While only 1% of Americans has served in the military, former service members account for 20% of all suicides in the U.S. Based in Canandaigua, NY and open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the Veterans Crisis Line receives more than 22,000 calls each month from veterans of all conflicts who are struggling or contemplating suicide. This timely documentary spotlights the traumas endured by America’s veterans, as seen through the work of the hotline’s trained responders. CRISIS HOTLINE captures extremely private moments, where the professionals, many of whom are themselves veterans or veterans’ spouses, can often interrupt the thoughts and plans of suicidal callers to steer them out of crisis.
Expectations: Well, folks this one is a no-brainer. Since this documentary is all about talking distressed people out of committing suicide it can only be uncomfortable and intense. Really, though, I suppose this piece could be harder to take than it actually is going to be. After all, we will only get one side of the conversations the trailer seems to indicate will be overheard in this documentary. I don’t know how dramatic the film will be as we watch those who man the phones at the hotline, but I am sure that we will only witness their side of the conversations. Imagine how intense it would be if permission was granted to hear the distressed veteran on the other end of the phone? Wow, I am eager to see how this unfolds. It is time to watch CRISIS HOTLINE: VETERANS PRESS 1.
Gut Reaction: This is a tight 42 minute film that encapsulates what the Hotline personnel deal with on a daily basis. It is a hard yet commendable job. Each phone call they receive at their call center is a unique and dangerous scenario that literally has a life or death ending to it. The responders, as they are called, are trained to keep the caller calm, focused and on the line until help arrives. They listen not only to the person on the line, but to every background noise and pause that occurs. They listen to the stories and pick up on key words or points to keep the caller engaged. It can be a long and stressful process. It was nice to see these people in action helping the depressed and reaching out to the few veterans who called during filming.
It wasn’t really necessary to hear the caller on the line, an unfeasible actuality anyway, because the responders have their series of questions and repeat back most of the responses and document them in notes on screen and on paper. You get enough of a sense of the despondent distress as they talk through the caller’s pain and desperation.
Indirectly we get a little sense of what veterans are going through, like their Post-traumatic Stress Disorder of Depression, but we really get a sense of what the job is like for the responders. Just like this story is about helping those who have served their country in times of conflict the people of the Crisis Hotline also get due recognition for their unwavering duty as well. We should thank them for their service as well.
In Conclusion: This documentary is by Ellen Goosnberg Kent who has also directed other HBO Documentary Films like WARTORN: 1861 – 2013; ALIVE DAY MEMORIES: HOME FROM IRAQ and I HAVE TOURETTE’S BUT TOURETTE’S DOEST HAVE ME. She quite successfully has added another meaningful film to her list. Anyone with any touch of compassion for the human condition will appreciate both the purpose of this film and the Veterans Crisis Line.
Other HBO air dates are 11.14 at 12:30pm; 11.17 at 6:00am & 3:15pm; 11.19 at 10:45am and 11.23 at 12:15pm. It also airs on HBO2 and on HBOGo.