HUNTSVILLE, Alabama (WAFF) – The chaos in Afghanistan continues as thousands of Afghans scrambled onto the tarmac on Monday, desperate to escape the Taliban who continue to extend their reach in the county.
Veterans of all ages are responding to events in Afghanistan. They may feel overwhelmed by the experiences they have had during their service
The Department of Veterans Affairs wants you to know that it is normal to feel this way and that there are resources for you. They suggest talking with friends and family, talking to other vets, or maybe contacting someone from mental health services.
The following resources are available from Veterans Affairs:
- Crisis line for veterans – If you are having suicidal thoughts, dial 1-800-273-8255, then PRESS 1 or visit http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/
For emergency mental health care, you can also contact directly your local VA medical center 24/7 regardless of your discharge status or enrollment in other VA healthcare.
- Veterinary centers – Discuss how you are feeling with other veterans in these community counseling centers. 70% of the staff of the veterinary center are veterans. Call 1-877-927-8387 or find one near you.
- Guide to VA Mental Health Services – This guide will help you register for and access mental health services.
- MakeTheConnection.net – Veteran to Veteran information, resources and videos for difficult life events and experiences with mental health issues.
- Checkpoint – Talk to other veterans online. To discuss: What are your feelings as the Taliban retake Afghanistan after 20 years of American involvement?
- Download VA Self-Help Apps – Tools to help manage common reactions like stress, sadness and anxiety. You can also track your symptoms over time.
- Tragedy Survivor Assistance Program (TAPS) – Request a peer mentor
- VA Veteran Women Call Center – Call or text 1-855-829-6636 (Monday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sat 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET)
- VA Caregiver Support Line – Call 1-855-260-3274 (Monday 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. & SAT 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. ET)
- Together we served – Find your battle friends through the unit pages
- George W. Bush Institute – Need help or want to talk? Registration or call: 1-630-522-4904 or email: [email protected]
- Hidden Heroes of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation – Join the community
- American Red Cross Veteran Military Caregiver Network – Peer support and mentoring
- Red, white and blue team – Hundreds of events per week. Find a chapter in your region.
- American veteran students – Find a campus chapter to connect with.
- Team Rubicon – Find a local support team.
The following information is provided by Veterans Affairs:
In response to current events in Afghanistan, Veterans can:
- Feeling frustrated, sad, helpless, heartbroken, or distressed
- Feel angry or betrayed
- Experience an increase in mental health symptoms like symptoms of PTSD or depression
- Sleep poorly, drink more or use more drugs
- Try to avoid all reminders or the media or avoid social situations
- Have more military and homecoming memories
Veterans may question the meaning of their service or whether it was worth the sacrifices they made. They may feel more moral distress about the experiences they have had while in service.
Veterans may feel like they have to expect the worst and / or prepare for the worst. For example, they can:
- Becoming overly protective, vigilant and supervised
- Become preoccupied with danger
- Feel the need to avoid being shocked or unprepared for what might happen in the future
Feeling distressed is a normal reaction to negative events, especially ones that seem personal to you. It can be helpful to let yourself experience these feelings rather than trying to avoid them. In order to deal with this stress, think about how your service has made a difference, how it has impacted the lives of others, or your own life. Remember that this is only a moment in time and things will continue to change.
It can help to focus on the present and engage in the activities that are most meaningful and valuable to you. Is there anything you can do today that is important to you? This can be an individual, a family member, a relative or a member of the community. Something that is meaningful to you in relation to your job or your spirituality? Such activities won’t change the past or the things you can’t control, but they can help make life meaningful and reduce distress, despite the things you can’t change.
It can also help you think about your way of thinking. Ask yourself if your thoughts are useful to you right now. Are there ways you can change the way you think to be more precise and less painful? For example, do you use extreme thinking where you see the situation as either very bad or very good? If so, try to think in less extreme terms. For example, rather than thinking “my service in Afghanistan was useless”, think instead “I helped keep Afghanistan safe”.
Finally, consider more general coping strategies that you may want to try, including:
- Engage in positive activities. Try to engage in positive, healthy, or meaningful activities, even if they are small, simple actions. Doing things that are rewarding, meaningful, or enjoyable, even if you don’t want to, can help you feel better.
- Stay logged in. Spend time with people who make you feel secure, calm, or happy, or those who best understand what you’re going through.
- Practice good personal care. Look for positive coping strategies that help you deal with your emotions. Listening to music, exercising, practicing breathing routines, spending time in nature or with animals, keeping a journal or reading inspirational texts are simple ways to help deal with overwhelming or distressing emotions. .
- Stick to your routines. It can be helpful to stick to a schedule for sleeping, eating, working, and doing other daily activities.
- Limit exposure to the media. Limit the amount of news you receive if the media coverage increases your distress.
- Use a mobile app. Consider one of VA’s self-help apps (see https://www.ptsd.va.gov/appvid/mobile/) like PTSD Coach, which offers tools that can help you deal with common reactions such as stress, sadness, and anxiety. You can also track your symptoms over time.
- Online PTSD Coach. A series of online video coaches will walk you through 17 tools to help you manage stress. PTSD Coach Online is used on a computer, rather than a mobile device, and therefore may offer tools that involve writing.
If you develop your own ways of adapting to current events and situations, you may acquire a stronger sense of being able to cope with challenges, a greater sense of meaning or purpose, and an ability to mentor and to support others in similar situations.
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