JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Veterans, service members and families: What you are feeling after watching Afghanistan fall to an enemy America fought for nearly 20 years is normal. And there is help for you to get through it.
The Department of Veterans Affairs wants you to know if you are feeling frustrated, sad, helpless or betrayed, you are not alone in those feelings and there are resources right now if you need it.
Many current and former members of the military have expressed a wide range of emotions – including mental health symptoms like PTSD or depression.
VA says veterans may question the meaning of their service or whether it was worth the sacrifices they made. They may feel more moral distress about experiences they had during their service and now may feel as if they need to expect or prepare for the worst.
The experts at VA want you to know that feeling distress is a normal reaction to negative events, especially ones that feel personal. It can be helpful to let yourself feel those feelings rather than try to avoid them. Often, these feelings will naturally run their course.
“We want all veterans to know that we are here to support you and to help facilitate connecting you with resources within VA and outside of VA to ensure that your healthcare needs are met,” suicide prevention supervisor Katherine Eicher told News4Jax. “This includes not only mental health but access to telehealth resources, COVID 19 vaccines, primary and specialty care and more.”
If troubling emotions continue without easing or if you feel overwhelmed by them, try:
- Engaging 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 feel like it, can make you feel better.
- Staying connected: Spend time with people who give you a sense of security, calm, or happiness, or those who best understand what you are going through.
- Practicing good self-care: Look for positive coping strategies that help you manage your emotions. Listening to music, exercising, practicing breathing routines, spending time in nature or with animals, journaling, or reading inspirational text are some simple ways to help manage overwhelming or distressing emotions.
- Sticking to your routines. It can be helpful to stick to a schedule for when you sleep, eat, work, and do other day-to-day activities.
- Limiting media exposure: Limit how much news you take in if media coverage is increasing your distress.
- Using a mobile app: Consider one of VA’s self-help apps such as PTSD Coach, which has tools that can help you deal with common reactions like, stress, sadness, and anxiety. You can also track your symptoms over time.
- PTSD Coach Online: It has a series of online video coaches who will guide you through 17 tools to help you manage stress. PTSD Coach Online is used on a computer, rather than a mobile device, and therefore can offer tools that involve writing.
Help is available right now
If you or a family member or friend is a veteran, a service member, in the reserve or National Guard, there is help every day all day through the Veterans Crisis Line. You can call (800-273-8255 and press 1), text 838255 or chat.
For EMERGENCY MENTAL HEALTH CARE, you can also go to a VA Medical Center near you -- regardless of your discharge status or enrollment in other VA health care.
Additional resources available
- Vet Centers: Discuss how you feel with other veterans in these community-based counseling centers. At least 70% of Vet Center staff are veterans. Call 1-877-927-8387. (Jacksonville Vet Center: 3728 Philips Highway, 904-399-8351)
- VA Mental Health Services Guide: This guide will help you sign up and access mental health services.
- MakeTheConnection.net: You will find information, resources, and veteran-to-veteran videos for challenging life events and experiences with mental health issues.
- RallyPoint: Talk to other veterans online. Discuss topics like: What are your feelings as the Taliban reclaim Afghanistan after 20 years of U.S. involvement?
- Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS): Request a peer mentor
- VA Women Veterans Call Center: Call or text 1-855-829-6636 (Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-10 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m.-6:30 p.m.)
- VA Caregiver Support Line: Call 1-855-260-3274 Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-10 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.)
- Together We Served: Find your battle buddies through unit pages
- Elizabeth Dole Foundation Hidden Heroes: Raise your hand. Share your story. Find support.
- American Red Cross Military Veteran Caregiver Network: Peer support and mentoring.
- Team Red, White & Blue: There are hundreds of events weekly. Find a chapter near you.
- Student Veterans of America: Find a campus chapter to connect with.
- Team Rubicon: Find a local support squad.