Screenshot from film. Photo Credit: HBO.

By Sabrina Fine, Communications Intern

Crisis Hotline: Veteran Press 1 is a HBO documentary film in association with Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) that chronicles veteran crisis line counselors.   It gives insight to day and night conversations with veterans on the verge of suicide or having suicidal thoughts.   The only Veterans Crisis Line (VCL) Center is in Canandaigua, New York.

The documentary produced by Dana Perry and directed by Ellen Goosenberg Kent is both educational and tear-jerking.  The fact that 22 veterans take their own life each day makes the counselor’s job matters of life and death.  The counselors are at the frontline of the battle of saving veterans from suicide.  VCL counselors are seen in the opening of the documentary with either hands pressed against their foreheads or stoic and professional as they recite words such as “I know you said you have a knife nearby you. Do you agree to not use that knife while I put you on hold?”  Another counselor says “putting a gun in your mouth is not an option we want to discuss today, sir.”  The call center receives more than 22,000 calls a month.

“You have five children, you have a wife and you have a lot to live for,” says one counselor named Darlene. Her voice is calm, but her eyes are fearful as she speaks with a former Marine who says he is a weapon to himself and suffers from recurring nightmares and having flashbacks.   “I am not going to leave you; I am not going to go anyway.”  Eventually a wellness check is sent to his home and Darlene briefly speaks with the Marine’s wife before she is abruptly hung up on.

The documentary is hard to watch yet it feels like a significant insight to the extreme suffering that some veterans feel.   To fully comprehend the documentary, you can watch it on HBO.  JWV supports IAVA in their continued campaigns that battle the veteran suicide rates.