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More vets reaching out for crisis line amid Afghanistan collapse

Calls and texts to the Veterans Crisis Line have increased significantly amid the end of U.S. operations in Afghanistan in recent weeks. But Veterans Affairs officials say that’s 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.

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 that all of the increase is from veterans of the recent wars traumatized directly by the events overseas.

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