US vets calling the crisis line help with increased numbers, as Afghanistan collapse

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With the end of US operations in Afghanistan in recent weeks, vets calls and messages to the Veterans Crisis Line have increased significantly. But Veterans Affairs officials say this is good news, not bad.

“The more that we can do to normalize discussions about crisis and about suicide and how it’s okay to reach out for help, the better,” said Dr. Lisa Kearney, director of crisis line operations. “I’m thankful for it, hopefully we can … make it easier for folks to reach us.”

Calls to the crisis line jumped about 7 percent over the last three weeks compared to August 2020. Online chats with crisis line staff are up almost 40 percent. Texts to the emergency service are up about 98 percent.

Moreover, that time frame coincides with international headlines chronicling the fall of the democratic government in Afghanistan, the return of Taliban rule and the chaotic end to U.S. military operations there.

However, Dr. Matthew Miller, National Director of VA’s Suicide Prevention Program, cautioned against assumptions. Not all of the increase is from veterans of the recent wars.

“I can’t think of any one thing or one factor to explain suicide prevention,” he said in a roundtable with reporters on Tuesday.

Miller noted that along with the situation in Afghanistan, veterans across the country have been inundated with reminders of the upcoming anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, faced a host of late-summer natural disasters in various locations, and seen pandemic restrictions re-emerge as coronavirus case numbers increase again. (continue reading)

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