The Department of Veterans Affairs, veterans groups and mental health organizations want Afghanistan veterans to know one thing: You are not alone.
In a wave of press releases Monday, the VA and veterans groups urged active-duty and former service members to reach out to comrades in arms, family members, friends and organizations if they are feeling a crisis of faith over their sacrifices in Afghanistan, which has been overrun by the Taliban following the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces.
"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. It's normal to feel this way," VA officials said in a press release.
"Act. Get help or give help," wrote a coalition of more than 30 military and veterans organizations, including Blue Star Families, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. "Reach out to teammates and fellow military- or veteran-connected family members and friends. Check in on them."
With distressing images on television of Afghans clinging to the outside of an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III as it took off from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, mental health providers who treat military personnel and veterans have gone on alert, urging those with symptoms of post-traumatic stress or feelings of despair, frustration or anger to seek help.
In a release Monday, VA officials noted the department has immediate resources available for veterans experiencing a crisis. And there are groups that can help in the long term with specialty concerns, including caregivers for veterans, student veterans on college campuses, online social networks and active veterans groups.
Here is a list of VA resources for veterans needing mental health care and support:
- Veterans Crisis Line. If you are having thoughts of suicide or need to speak immediately with someone for a mental health event, call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.
- VA Medical Centers. Emergency mental health care can be obtained at local VA medical centers at any time, regardless of a veteran's discharge status or enrollment.
- Vet Centers. Community-based counseling, staffed by veterans, is available at these centers.
- VA Women Veterans Call Center. Call or text 1-855-829-6636 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
- VA Caregiver Support Line. Call 1-855-260-3274 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time
- VA self-help apps. Tools can help veterans handle common reactions such as stress, sadness and anxiety, and track symptoms
Additional resources are available:
- RallyPoint. A social network for military service members, veterans and family members.
- Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. Survivors can request peer mentors.
- Together We Served. Connects service members and vets with others in their units.
- George W. Bush Institute. The institute's Check In program supports veterans who need help, through the website or at 630-522-4904.
- Elizabeth Dole Foundation. The Hidden Heroes program provides assistance to caregivers.
- American Red Cross Military Veteran Caregiver Network. Offers peer support and mentoring.
- Team Red, White & Blue. Hosts hundreds of events weekly.
- Student Veterans of America. Provides support on college campuses for veterans.
- Team Rubicon. A disaster response organization made up of veterans.
- Cohen Veterans Network. Provides no-cost counseling to service members, veterans and their family members in major cities.
Even if medical assistance or formal help is not needed, these organizations urge former service members to get involved, volunteer with others or simply reach out to their fellow veterans.
"Our shared connections are invaluable and we encourage our members to perform buddy checks to help one another process their emotions and connect with resources," DAV National Commander Andy Marshall said in a statement Monday.
-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Monster.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.