VA of Salt Lake City increasing outreach to vets in the wake of Afghanistan attack

Aug 26, 2021, 7:25 PM | Updated: 7:32 pm
(The George E. Whalen Veterans Medical Center in Salt Lake City.  Deseret News, file photo)...
(The George E. Whalen Veterans Medical Center in Salt Lake City. Deseret News, file photo)
(The George E. Whalen Veterans Medical Center in Salt Lake City. Deseret News, file photo)

SALT LAKE CITY – Veterans advocates say the deadly attack in Afghanistan could trigger a lot of mental health issues for vets across Utah. 

Officials with the VA Salt Lake City Health Care System say they’re stepping up their outreach efforts. They want veterans to know they can reach out for counseling if they need it.

Patient morale is low

Hospital officials tell KSL the morale among the patients getting care at the VA of Salt Lake City is low.  Spokesperson Jill Atwood says vets are trying to console each other while they watch the situation unfold in Afghanistan.  She says patients can’t pull themselves away from their TVs.

Atwood said, “If you were to walk around our health care system right now, you would see veterans gathered around the television watching breaking news.”

Hospital administrators haven’t had the time to tabulate how many calls they’re getting for mental healthcare services.

Getting more calls

However, Atwood has spoken with their on-site counselors and psychiatrists. She says, anecdotally, they have been seeing more calls for counseling even before the attack happened.  Atwood says the deteriorating conditions in Afghanistan have been top-of-mind for veterans ever since the Taliban took over.

“Obviously, something like this is extremely triggering,” Atwood said.  “A lot of folks have spent a lot of time over there and a lot of sacrifices have happened.  This is disturbing.”

She says they have a full staff of doctors and counselors on hand to help vets dealing with suicidal thoughts. However, she’s hoping the public can help.  Atwood is asking everyone to reach out to their veteran friends to see if they need care.

Thinking of the Afghan military

Former VA of Utah Director Terry Schow says veterans aren’t just thinking about their fellow soldiers who were killed or injured in the attack. They are also thinking about the members of the Afghan military, who served with US troops.  Schow says it’s frustrating to hear anyone claim that the Afghan forces simply gave up their arms and walked away.

“Sixty thousand Afghans lost their lives over the past 20 years fighting to defend their country, and they were under insurmountable odds,” Schow said.

He believes many veteran groups and military strategists tried to warn the Biden administration about potential problems if the withdrawal wasn’t handled correctly. And there were lessons that should have been learned from previous conflicts.  Additionally, Schow is especially disappointed with the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

“Both have served in the Middle East and, certainly, should have some understanding of what’s going on there, but it appears as though they have not made mentions to those prior lessons,” he said.

Read more:

Today’s Top Stories

Mental Health Resources

kids and body image KSL radio...
Simone Seikaly

How to help kids maintain a healthy body image in the digital age

Body image issues can arise in kids as young as 3 years of age. A psychiarist joins Dave and Dujanovic to offer insight.
17 days ago
Incumbent Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, debates GOP primary challenger Erin Rider aon Tuesday, May 31...
Simone Seikaly

Rep Stewart’s suicide prevention hotline, 988, goes live this week

It's been a long time in the making but the new number to call for suicide prevention, 988, will finally be live across the nation this week.
1 month ago
mental health rural...
Don Brinkerhoff

Staffing may be short at Huntsman Mental Health Institute; expert says reach out anyways if you need help

The Huntsman Mental Health Institute is experiencing a staffing shortage, but Business Operations Manager Anne Stephens says to call anyways if you need help.
2 months ago
Two cases of hepatitis have been found in Utah....
Amanda Dickson

Mental health services expanding for children (and parents) in Utah

Utah officials note a 300% increase in mental health crises in children over the last ten years. Immediate help can be a gamechanger.
3 months ago
Gov. Cox Ukraine State of the Union...
Mark Jones

May 7 declared as Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day in Utah

Gov. Spencer Cox declared Saturday, May 7 as Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day in Utah.
3 months ago
mental health daylight exposure...
Jacob Rueda

Researchers say mental health affected by daylight exposure

With daylight saving time possibly becoming permanent, researchers say daylight exposure can affect mental health, and more darkness during winter might be harmful,
5 months ago

Sponsored Articles

VA of Salt Lake City increasing outreach to vets in the wake of Afghanistan attack