Since 2001, more veterans have committed suicide than have died in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
That’s just one of many heartbreaking statistics found in “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1,” a new HBO documentary which profiles the people working behind the scenes to help veterans and active-duty military members in their darkest hours.
The New York-based Crisis Hotline call center receives more than 22,000 calls each month, and the short film highlights some of the responders taking the calls.
Calls can be minutes or hours and can sometimes lead to dire circumstances — with supervisors calling local police to visit veterans on the line that have guns right by their side. The responders use phrases like “No one can replace you,” “Your children need you,” and “Your family loves you” — sometimes being the last person that a veteran may talk to before taking their own life.
No doubt it’s an emotional and powerful film and one worth watching. As a veteran myself, I was struck by the immense problem of military suicides. But most amazing were the people on the other end of that line that we often never think about.
While some responders are veterans, many are not, and they all come into work each day, put on a headset, and try to talk people down from the ledge. To be able to carry that emotional baggage day in and day out — and in one instance in the film, spend six hours tracking down a military member that called, hung up, and would have killed himself if they had done nothing — is extremely powerful.
From the film’s website:
The film captures these extremely private moments, where the professionals, many of whom are themselves veterans or veterans’ spouses, can often interrupt the thoughts and plans of suicidal callers to steer them out of crisis. Hotline workers sometimes intervene successfully by seizing on the caller’s ambivalence and illuminating his or her reasons for living.
The film airs on Veterans Day — Monday, Nov. 11 at 9 p.m on HBO. You can also learn more about the Veterans Crisis Line at their official website.
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