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VA seeing increase in mental health service utilization as US leaves Afghanistan, 9/11 anniversary nears

Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 4:21 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 19, 2021 at 4:45 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - As the United States winds down its military presence in Afghanistan ahead of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, local and national veterans facilities are seeing an increase in the number of veterans seeking mental health treatment.

Days before Afghanistan’s president fled the country as the Taliban moved into Kabul, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said it was seeing an increase in mental health service utilization and reminded veterans that the services are available, especially with the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks just weeks away.

The department also said the number of veterans seeking mental health care could continue to climb as the U.S. mission in Afghanistan comes to a close.

Stephanie Keller, the section chief of the Charleston VA’s post-traumatic-stress clinical team said more veterans are appropriately reaching out for help given the global stressors.

“The VA is here and we have effective mental health care for PTSD, depression and a number of other mental health conditions. It takes a lot of courage for many to seek help, and we’re here and happy to help provide those resources for veterans and their family members,” Keller, a psychologist, said.

Veterans have a number of unique needs and stressors from service both abroad and at home, she added. If a veteran is experiencing symptoms or stressors that aren’t going away, Keller recommended they reach out to their health care provider.

“We want all veterans to know, regardless of era, that we are here to help and provide effective mental health care,” she said.

If you or someone you know is in need of help, there are a number of resources available:

Veterans and their loved ones can find a number of resources on mentalhealth.va.gov.

In a mental health emergency, veterans can also go to their local VA medical center 24/7 regardless of discharge status or whether they use other VA services.

There is also the Vet Center Call Center at 877-WAR-VETS (877-927-8387) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255 – press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.

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