State Department officials suffered “complete mental collapse” over failed Afghanistan

The disorganized process of trying to get the Americans and other allies out of Afghanistan has resulted in many members of the State Department suffering from a mental health crisis, according to interviews with employees conducted by Politico.

A State Department official Recount Politico that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan was “extremely demoralizing”, noting that “the experience has broken a lot of people”. The official said the department was “inundated with personal requests to help specific people” but remained “powerless to do anything” to help.

Staff described being “manic” or suffering from “complete mental breakdown” while the chaotic withdrawal unfolded, with constant US failures taking their toll, Politico reported.

“You fail with the email, you fail to get advice on what we could do and what we couldn’t do,” an official said. “We weren’t empowered enough. No one really understood what our policy was.

Another official told Politico of a phone conversation they had with an Afghan father in which the Taliban could be heard knocking on his door.

“It’s so scary. You don’t know if you’re going to be on the phone with someone when they get shot, ”the official said. “You don’t know if the email you receive from this person will be the last email from them. “

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reportedly offered to provide mental health assistance to State Department employees during the evacuation due to the level of stress they were experiencing at work. The 24/7 helpline, which focuses on PTSD and suicide prevention, has been offered to be made available to the State Department.

“I have heard that a number of State Department employees feel a great deal of distress because of the calls they receive for help from people feeling stranded in Afghanistan,” the sub wrote. Acting VA Health Secretary Steven Lieberman to a handful of senior VA officials in an August 26 email. , Politico reported.

“I suspect they don’t have an effective process in place to deal with this type of distress. We could ask some of our veterinary center staff to provide virtual support if the State Department was interested, ”Lieberman added. The State Department turned down the VA’s offer, which one State Department employee called “really disturbing” and “a shame.”

Secretary of State Antoine Blinken told Politico in a statement that the health, safety and well-being of department staff and their families were top priorities. He said staff members were offered a variety of resources, but acknowledged that they may have missed out on mental health advisories due to the sheer volume of information being sent to them.

“During crises, such as the withdrawal from Afghanistan, we strive to increase the availability of these services and remind our employees that it is okay to disagree and that asking for help is healthy, ”State Department spokesman Ned Price said, Politico reported. .

“The mental health ramifications of the Afghanistan evacuation are not over – we expect employees to have potentially unfavorable mental health in the months and years to come,” Price added.

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