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Afghan Vets Have Resources to Cope With Withdrawal

Veterans and current service members may be experiencing a variety of emotions related to the withdrawal of American service members and civilians from Afghanistan. “Some of those emotions could be positive and some could be negative,” said David Brown, behavioral health state specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. “Some veterans or current service members may be happy that the U.S. military is no longer involved in a protracted conflict. Others, however, may feel frustrated or even betrayed, especially if they have personal experience serving in Afghanistan.”

The National Center for PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder – has listed the following reactions or emotions veterans or current service members may experience. These feelings and behaviors are normal reactions to negative events.

  • Feeling sad, helpless, distressed or angry.
  • Worrying about the Afghan people who worked with the U.S. military who may be left behind.
  • Sleeping poorly, drinking more or using drugs.
  • Trying to avoid all reminders or media or staying away from social situations.
  • Having more military memories.
  • Questioning the meaning of their service or whether it was worth the sacrifices they or others made.

For those who are experiencing negative feelings, the following coping strategies can help.

  • Stay connected by spending time with people who give you a sense of happiness, or those who understand what you may be feeling.
  • Practice good self-care by engaging in activities such as listening to music, exercising, meditating, spending time in nature, journaling or enjoying spiritual reading.
  • Stick to your routines and follow a schedule for when you sleep, eat, work or go to school.
  • Limit print and social media exposure, especially if it increases your distress.

“If these strategies do not help or if you do not seem to have the energy to even attempt them, consider seeking help,” Brown said.

Every U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs facility has mental health specialists. You can visit VA’s Get Help page at https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/get-help/local-care.asp to find a provider near you.

“If you feel like you might hurt yourself or someone else, get help now. The Veterans Crisis Line includes phone, online chat and text-messaging services free to all Veterans, even if you are not enrolled in VA health care,” Brown said. Confidential support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.

Another helpful resource is Iowa Concern.  This is a program offered by ISU Extension and Outreach for confidential assistance and referral for stress, legal questions and financial concerns. Iowa Concern can be contacted toll-free at 800-447-1985 or at https://www.extension.iastate.edu/iowaconcern/.

The Iowa Department of Public Health has created the Your Life Iowa hotline at 855-581-8111 or text 855-895-8398. This service is available so Iowans can chat live, text or call and get reliable information and treatment options and find nearby help. The service also includes a website to locate state recognized community mental health centers and substance use treatment centers at yourlifeiowa.org/finder

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