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Calls to Veterans’ Suicide Hotlines Are Up Since the Taliban’s Takeover of Afghanistan

by Insider Aug 29, 2021
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Calls to suicide helplines have increased since August 16 — the day after Kabul fell to the Taliban. (Getty Images via Insider)
Calls to suicide helplines have increased since August 16 — the day after Kabul fell to the Taliban. (Getty Images via Insider)

Suicide hotlines for veterans in times of crisis have seen a significant uptick in demand since the Taliban’s lightning takeover of Afghanistan, according to the Daily Beast.

The Veterans Crisis Line, a national suicide prevention lifeline run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is one of the services that has seen an increase in calls since Kabul fell, the Daily Beast reported.

On August 16, the day after Kabul was taken over by the Taliban, the Veterans Crisis Line received nearly a 12 percent increase in calls when compared to the volume of calls on the same day last year, the media outlet said.

On August 25, the Daily Beast reported that the line had a 17 percent uptick compared to the previous year.

Matthew Miller, the Veterans Affairs (VA) Department’s national director for suicide prevention, told the Daily Beast that it’s uncertain if the increase in calls is directly related to the situation in Afghanistan.

However, it is evident that the mental health impact of the Taliban’s takeover has “weighed heavy” on veterans who may be having suicidal thoughts, the media outlet reported.

Insider’s Oma Seddiq wrote that some U.S. veterans feel President Joe Biden has botched the Afghanistan withdrawal.

Stop Soldiers Suicide, a veteran-led nonprofit group, has also reported a rise in requests for help. It is “projecting a 15-20 percent increase in requests in August, as a result of the crisis in Afghanistan,” Tina Starkey, Stop Soldier Suicide’s chief growth officer, told the Daily Beast.

The media outlet reported that requests for the group’s help were up by 90 percent and 60 percent, respectively, over the last two weeks when compared to the historical average.

A similar situation is happening across the pond, according to a report by the BBC. Combat Stress, a mental health provider for British veterans, saw calls to its helpline more than double after the fall of Kabul.

Calls to the service were 125 percent higher than normal on one day, and 103 percent higher on another, the BBC said.

According to the Defense Department, some 800,000 American servicemembers have served in Afghanistan since October 2001. A study by the VA finds that around 16 percent of post 9/11 veterans display signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Headlines and images from Afghanistan can trigger PTSD symptoms, a staff psychiatrist with the Veterans Administration Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System told News Wise. In turn, PTSD can increase the risk of death by suicide, the VA said.

The rate of suicide among military veterans is higher than the rate among the general civilian public. In 2018, according to the RAND Corporation, the rate of suicide among U.S. veterans was 32.0 per 100,000, compared with 17.2 per 100,000 for non-veterans.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress, as well as best practices for professionals and resources to aid in prevention and crisis situations.

This article was written by Joshua Zitser and originally published on the Insider.

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