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Calls to veteran crisis hotline increasing

Published: Sep. 11, 2021 at 10:55 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Officials with American Legion Post 205 said there have been a sharp increase in calls to veteran crisis hotlines.

“The increases have been massive,” American Legion Post 205 Commander Tony Berenotto said. “It is actually people wanting to talk about both the 20th anniversary of 9/11. That seems to be a stressor and the one that seems to be a greater stresser is the pullout of Afghanistan.”

Berenotto said many of the callers are Vietnam Veterans and Afghanistan Veterans.

“They are seeing something similar to what happened to them back when we pulled out of Vietnam and they are having memories of those incidents,” Berenotto said. “It is increasing numbers of calls to the mental health hotlines.”

He said the spike is concerning, but also, a good thing.

“The bad part is that those stressors are increasing and that those veterans are feeling those stressors,” Berenotto said. “The good thing is that we believe people are getting mentally stronger. That their resilience has increased over the years and they don’t panic at using those resources that are available to them.”

Retired Air Force Lt. Colonel and Chaplain Dennis Lovin said military events in the news and anniversaries of major milestones can trigger all veterans, not just newly retired.

“If you see some things happening in their lives, where they just aren’t themselves or they seem really distracted or irritable and angry, all these are common kind of things that happen in the readjustment period,” Lovin said.

“I know for a fact that I get very emotional every year at 9/11,” Berenotto said. “Seeing the stories, hearing the stories again, seeing the people that were affected.”

Lovin said it is important to help veterans any way you can right now.

“If you own a business and can hire a vet do and help them with their rehabilitation,” Lovin said. “Encourage that.”

“I think the stigma of mental health, particularly around veterans, is decreasing quite a bit,” Berenotto said.

American Legion Riders of District 21, with six chapters in Jefferson county, are hosting a 9/11 commemorative bike ride.

The event starts at 9am on September 12th, 2021. Berenotto said it is to bring awareness to 9/11, so others never forget the way he will not forget. He said anyone can come.

Riders are meeting at Post 171 on 8325 First Avenue North. Berenotto said kickstands go up at 11am. The ride will end in Leeds at post 107.

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