To Those Who Served In Or Have Been Impacted By The War In Afghanistan, You Are Not Alone

This is a really hard time for many who are inextricably connected to America's longest war, but you don't have to face it on your own.

Afghan Veterans Mental Health After U.S. Withdrawal
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Inf—Public Domain

These past few weeks have not been easy to witness in regards to the events in Afghanistan. As images and video of the Taliban sweeping back into power and the chaos at Hamid Karzai Internation Airport flooded the news, many began wondering what was the point of nearly 20 years of war and thousands of U.S. and allied troops killed.

Before I became social media director here at The War Zone, I, like many of you, served. I deployed to southern Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2011 as a Marine and have been asking myself why did we expend so much blood and treasure for this result and if my time and energy spent there was all just a waste. It is impossible to reconcile all of those lives lost and all those broken minds and bodies while watching the very people who killed and maimed us come back into power so easily.

Many people are hurting from these events, and no one group has a monopoly on this pain. Active duty, reserves, veterans, contractors, families or friends, an entire community around this war is feeling the effects of the last several weeks, months, and years. But we do not need to “suffer in silence” and we do not need to carry this pain alone.

Comparisons to the fall of Saigon in 1975 are easy to make with the countless similarities. One aspect of the fall of Afghanistan and the fall of Saigon that could not be more different is the social environment and the mental health resources we have access to today. We learned our lesson in how we treat the men and women we ask so much of, and though we still have a ways to go, we are leaps and bounds ahead of where we were in 1975. 

We want to share with you all some of those mental health resources in the hopes they can help in some way. 

Maybe the best resource is one that is completely free—each other. Whether it is here in the comments section, or out in the offline world, reach out to your friends and family and check in on them. Connecting with an old friend is incredibly powerful for both parties involved. 

Make that call or send that text, you could save a life. 

We understand that there are many more resources than those we are about to share, but these are what we are familiar with, please share any more you have in the comments below.

The Department of Veterans Affairs

The VA is a great place to start for mental health resources and support for both veterans their families. 

The Veterans Crisis Line allows veterans, their families, and their friends to call, chat online, or text. You can call them at 1-800-273-8255 (this is also the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) and press 1, text at 838255, or chat online here. These services are confidential, run 24 hours a day, and the VA does perform follow-ups for those who connect via the crisis line. If you or someone you know is in crisis, this is a good place to start. 

The War Vet Call Center is another confidential call center that runs 24/7 but is geared toward combat veterans and their families. They can be reached at 1-877-WAR-VETS (1-877-927-8387).

The Women Veterans Call Center, as you have guessed, caters to female veterans and the unique challenges they face as well as their families, friends, and caregivers. Call 1-855-VA-Women (1-855-829-6636) from 8 a.m.-10 p.m. ET Monday through Friday and 8 a.m.-6:30 p.m Saturday. You can also chat online with them during those same hours.

Real Warriors is a program through the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health And Traumatic Brain Injury, or DCOE for short. They provide information and resources about psychological health, Posttraumatic Stress, and traumatic brain injury. Call them at 1-866-966-1020 24/7 or chat online.

As we mentioned above, veteran caregivers are impacted by all of this as well, and the VA provides support for those individuals as well. Caregiver Support can be reached at 1-855-260-3274 from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday. You can also find a local Caregiver Support Coordinator here.

Military OneSource

If you are active-duty or have been out for less than a year, you can use Military OneSource for support and resources in just about everything that comes with active-duty life. They also have mental health resources that you can access outside of the traditional military healthcare networks.

Peer-to-peer support is available 24/7, by phone, or via a live chat function. Call them at 800-342-9647 or start a chat with them here

In addition to that, Military OneSource provides confidential specialty consultations in a variety of areas, including mental health. Call the same number above to get that started. 

These are some of the government-funded resources we all have available to us. There are some great groups and charities that also work in this space. 

Charities

Headstrong is a veteran-founded organization that connects military members, veterans, and their family members with confidential treatment at a network of providers at no expense to the individual regardless of when they served. To get started, click here

Mission 22 offers a variety of services including a virtual program, a wellness program, access to Crossfit, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Judo, and retreats and other programs with partner organizations such as Warfighter Outfitters

Mission 22 also has programs for families like their Mission Troopers Equine Program that is geared toward the children of veterans. 

Give An Hour is an organization that provides free mental health services to individuals through a network of professionals who donate their time. They have a network geared toward veterans in particular as well.

These are just a handful of organizations and resources that work to tirelessly support veterans and their loved ones. We encourage you to access them if there is any need at all, you deserve it and so do the ones you love.

Above all else, remember you are not alone. Not in the feelings you may be having towards this situation and not in the fight to get through this troubling time. 

Contact the author: kyle.gunn@recurrent.io