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Veterans from all eras are reacting to the events in Afghanistan, such as the U.S withdrawal and the takeover by the Taliban.
You are not alone.
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. Talk with your friends and families, reach out to battle buddies, connect with a peer-to-peer network, or sign up for mental health services. Scroll down for a list common reactions and coping advice.
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Common Reactions In reaction to current events in Afghanistan, Veterans may:
Veterans may feel like they need to expect and/or prepare for the worst. For example, they may:
Strategies for Managing Ongoing DistressAt this moment, it may seem like all is lost, like your service or your sacrifices were for nothing. Consider the ways that your service made a difference, the impact it had on others’ lives or on your own life. Remember that now is just one moment in time and that things will continue to change.
It can be helpful to focus on the present and to engage in the activities that are most meaningful and valuable to you. Is there something you can do today that is important to you? This can be as an individual, a family member, a parent, or a community member. Something that is meaningful to you in regard to your work or your spirituality? Such activities won’t change the past or the things you can’t control, but they can help life feel meaningful and reduce distress, despite the things you cannot change.
It can also help to consider your thinking. Ask yourself if your thoughts are helpful to you right now. Are there ways you can change your 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.”
Finally, consider more general coping strategies that you may want to try including:
Afghanistan: How Veterans can reconcile service READ MORE
Afghanistan: How Veterans can learn from Vietnam Veterans READ MORE
We see and hear a lot about depression. Actually, as I write I see a anti-depressant medication commercial on television. Everyone has ups and downs in mood, but, how do you know that it is depression? Here are some signs of depression:
1. Hopelessness. It's more than the problem at hand. With depression, it's about having a feeling that nothing will get better and there is nothing you can do about it.
2. Loss of Interest in Daily Activities. Maybe there are activities and/or hobbies that you used to enjoy. Do you still find enjoyment from those activities? Or, have you lost the ability to find enjoyment from those things? If you have a hard time finding enjoyment in activities you once enjoyed, you might be suffering from depression.
3. Anger and/or Irritability. Feeling angry or irritable is often a symptom of another problem. With depression, your temper could be short and things can easily get on your nerves. Anger and irritability is a symptom of being unhappy.
4. Fatigue. Do you find yourself to be tired and/or physically drained? With depression - normal everyday tasks can be tiring and draining.
5. Low Self Esteem. If you experience strong feelings of guilt or worthlessness, you may be suffering from depression. If you harshly criticize yourself for a fault or mistake, it could be a sign that something else is going on.
6. Concentration Problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions or remembering things are all signs of depression.
7. Appetite Changes. If you notice a significant weight loss or weight gain - it may be due to a change in appetite.
8. Suicidal Thoughts. If you are thinking about suicide, you likely have depression.
There's help for depression. I would be happy to see you in my office and help you get the help you need, call and make an appointment: 612.889.7517. If you are reading this and you are not in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro Area, you can find a therapist in your area by going to www.psychologytoday.com, click on "Find a Therapist." If you need to talk with someone right now, call 1.800.273.TALK.