The crisis hotline for military veterans has seen a surge in calls since Kabul fell to the Taliban
- The VA crisis hotline said it got 1,681 calls on the day the
Talibanswept to power in Afghanistan.
- This was a 16% increase from the number reported on the same date in 2020.
- A UK veterans helpline has reported seeing double the number of daily calls it is used to receiving.
The crisis helpline run by the US Department of Veterans Affairs has seen an increase in the number of people calling in since Kabul, Afghanistan, fell to the Taliban last week.
Gary Kunich, a public-affairs specialist for the department, told The Hill that the helpline received 1,681 calls on August 15 - the day
That's a 16% increase, which Kunich told The Hill was especially unusual because August 15 this year fell on a Sunday, which he said usually saw lower-than-usual call totals.
He also said that from August 13 to August 16 - the days leading up to and after Kabul's capitulation - the helpline received 531 calls more than it did during the same time frame last year.
The Pentagon last week sent out a circular containing a list of mental-health resources for US veterans who fought in Afghanistan.
"Remember that what is happening now does not minimize or negate the experiences of all who served overseas," the message said. "Service is never for naught."
The memo also noted that talking "can be very therapeutic" and advised that service members should "do what feels right for you."
"Remember that this is one moment in time, and regardless of what comes next, we will get through it together," the memo said.
NPR reported this June that the number of military suicides since September 11, 2001, had been four times that of combat deaths. Citing a study by Brown University's Cost of War Project, NPR highlighted a sobering statistic: More than 7,000 Americans died in military operations over the past two decades, but the number of suicides by active-duty service members and military veterans over that time exceeded 30,000.
The increased demand for mental-health resources in recent weeks is not unique to the US. The BBC reported last week that the number of calls to the helpline run by the UK veterans nonprofit Combat Stress doubled since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.
Jeff Harrison, the interim CEO of Combat Stress, told the BBC that veterans could be dealing with "moral injury" in the wake of the Afghanistan troop drawdown.
"While they were there, they knew they were doing something that was really worthwhile - they were helping out a country, they were keeping the rest of the world safe, they were doing everything that was asked of them," Harrison said. "They knew that it was a moral cause they were there for, and it was an ethical cause."
He added: "And they look now at what's happening, about people just pulling out effectively overnight, and they just wonder what it was all for. Was it just a futile effort?"
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