CLEVELAND — The end of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan is having a big impact on veterans at home in Ohio.
The VA Northeast Ohio Health System reported that veterans from all eras are experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from seeing the images of what has happened in Afghanistan during the past few days as the Taliban takes control of the country.
“We’re seeing people start to talk about it more, starting to wonder about what was this for? Was this worth it? What was the sacrifice for?” said Dr. Heather Flores, assistant chief of PTSD and mental health for the VA facility.
She said now is a good time to check in on friends or family members who are veterans, as they may be having an increase in anxiety, anger, confusion or other emotions.
Dr. Flores said talking about their feelings may be therapeutic.
“One of the things we’re trying to do is help people recognize that this is normal in this context,” said Dr. Flores. “You know, this is a tragedy that we’re all kind of watching unfold and it’s normal for people to be struggling in this way. And it’s understandable, it makes sense.”
In addition to talking, practicing self-care, volunteering or watching a funny movie can also alleviate some of the symptoms. She also recommended limiting exposure to news media to avoid potential triggers.
“Regardless of what might happen this week, what might happen next week, in the weeks to come or any other point, their service matters,” said Dr. Flores.
She said if a veteran shows noticeable behavioral changes, like substance abuse, thoughts of suicide or spending more time alone, they may need some professional help.
The VA provided the following list of resources available:
- Veterans Crisis Line - If you are having thoughts of suicide, call 1-800-273-8255, then PRESS 1 or visit http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/
- For emergency mental health care, you can also go directly to your local VA medical center 24/7 regardless of your discharge status or enrollment in other VA health care.
- Vet Centers - Discuss how you feel with other Veterans in these community-based counseling centers. 70% of Vet Center staff are Veterans. Call 1-877-927-8387 or find one near you.
- VA Mental Health Services Guide - This guide will help you sign up and access mental health services.
- MakeTheConnection.net - information, resources, and Veteran to Veteran videos for challenging life events and experiences with mental health issues.
- RallyPoint - Talk to other Veterans online. Discuss: What are your feelings as the Taliban reclaim Afghanistan after 20 years of US involvement?
- Download VA's self-help apps - Tools to help deal with common reactions like, stress, sadness, and anxiety. You can also track your symptoms over time.
- Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) - Request a Peer Mentor
- VA Women Veterans Call Center - Call or text 1-855-829-6636 (M-F 8AM - 10PM & SAT 8AM - 6:30PM ET)
- VA Caregiver Support Line - Call 1-855-260-3274 (M-F 8AM - 10PM & SAT 8AM - 5PM ET)
- Together We Served -Find your battle buddies through unit pages
- George W. Bush Institute - Need help or want to talk? Check In or call:1-630-522-4904 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Elizabeth Dole Foundation Hidden Heroes - Join the Community
- American Red Cross Military Veteran Caregiver Network - Peer Support and Mentoring
- Team Red, White & Blue - Hundreds of events weekly. Find a chapter in your area.
- Student Veterans of America - Find a campus chapter to connect with.
- Team Rubicon - Find a local support squad.