VA suicide hotline got 35K-plus calls during Afghan evacuation

( The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban and the failure of the Biden administration that caused it is having far-reaching and devastating unintended consequences. According to the Veterans Affairs, calls into the VA suicide hotline over the two weeks since Kabul fell have skyrocketed.

Between August 13 and August 29, US military veterans placed more than 35,000 calls to the Veterans Crisis Line. During that two-week span, the Veterans Crisis Line was fielding on average 2,060 calls a day. The highest single-day calls – 2,570 — were received on Monday August 16 after Kabul fell into the hands of the Taliban.

Veterans Affairs analyzes changes in call data volume by comparing it to the same day during the previous year. There was roughly a 7 percent increase in calls from August 13 to 29 of this year compared to the same span of time in 2020. That increase works out to approximately 2,300 more calls this year than last year.

According to the Department of Defense Quarterly Suicide Report, in 2020 three hundred and seventy-seven active-duty service members died by suicide. That was up from 2019 when three hundred and forty-eight active-duty service members took their own life. The suicide rate among US service members has been steadily increasing over the last several years. In 2016 there were two hundred and eighty deaths by suicide.

The VA has begun a new awareness campaign during this month which is Suicide Prevention Month.

On Tuesday, a group of 34 bipartisan Senators led by Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) are asking the Department of Veterans Affairs to “quickly develop a comprehensive outreach plan” to offer mental health services to US veterans who served in Afghanistan.

In their letter, these Senators asked VA Secretary Denis McDonough to proactively reach out to those Afghan veterans in the coming months through email, social media, phone calls and text messages.

Two veterans, meanwhile, are acting on their own to launch an initiative to combat veteran suicide. Retired Staff Sgt. and Medal of Honor recipient Leroy Petry, along with former Navy SEAL Frank Larkin, are leading efforts for a “National Warrior Call Day” – a specific day to encourage veterans to reach out to each other.