With the unfolding of current events in Afghanistan, Veterans may question the meaning of their service, whether it was worth the sacrifices they made and/or may feel increased affects of moral injuries they may have experienced.
This information was adapted from guidance published by VA on Aug. 16, 2021 from firstname.lastname@example.org.
**What you might see:
Veterans may express:
- Feelings of anger or or betrayal
- Frustration, sadness, helplessness, grief or distress
- More mental health symptoms, like symptoms of PTSD or depression
- That they are sleeping poorly
- Drinking more or using more drugs
- Trying to avoid all reminders, i.e not listening to media or shying away from social situations
- More military and homecoming memories
Veterans may feel like they need to expect and/or prepare for the worst. For example, they may:
- Become overly protective, vigilant, and guarded
- Become preoccupied by danger
- Feel a need to avoid being shocked by, or unprepared for, what may happen in the future
ALL OF THESE REACTIONS ARE NORMAL!
**What you might do:
Wondering how to be supportive, try these things:
- Reach out to the Veterans you know, simply call and ask them how they are doing, how they feel about what is going on in Afghanistan? This act of kindness lets them know they are not alone and that you care. It works!
- Listen closely when the Veteran shares his/her feelings. It’s helpful for Veterans to feel their feelings rather than try to avoid them. Often, these feelings will naturally run their course.
- Encourage the Veteran to reach out to family, friends, a peer to peer network and especially their battle buddies.
- Emphasize that they should try to stay connected with people who give them a sense of security, calm or happiness and those that can best understand what they are going through.
- Gently encourage the Veteran to consider how his/her thinking is affecting them. If you know them well, ask if they think their thoughts are helpful to them right now. And ask if there are ways he/she can change their thinking to be more accurate and less distressing? For example, are you using extreme thinking where you see the situation as all bad or all good? If so, try and think in less extreme terms. For example, rather than thinking “my service in Afghanistan was useless” consider instead “I helped keep Afghanistan safe.”
- Suggest that they stay engaged in positive and/or meaningful activities even if they are small, simple actions.
- Remind them that limiting media exposure might help.
- Stress that at times like this, practicing good self key is really importantlike 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.
Share this article with someone who is struggling: Afghanistan: How Veterans can Reconcile Service
Learn more about military culture by taking this free PsychArmor training titled 15 Things Veterans Want You to Know.
Learn how to become a Veteran Champion, by reading my book, “Beyond ‘Thank You for Your Service: ‘The Veteran Champion handbook for civilians.”
Don’t know what number to call?
1-800-MyVA411 (800-698-2411) is never the wrong number