Resources for Afghanistan Veterans
Veterans from all eras are reacting to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the takeover by the Taliban. Veterans of the Afghanistan conflict may be having a variety of strong reactions.
You are not alone.
Veterans may question the meaning of their service or whether it was worth the sacrifices they made. They may feel moral distress about experiences they had during their service. It’s normal to feel this way. Talk with your friends and family, reach out to battle buddies, connect with a peer-to-peer network, or sign up for mental health services. See below for a list common reactions and coping advice.
USF student-veterans can contact CAPS for support or request a consultation with a Veterans Administration representatative. See the drop-down below for additional resources.
In reaction to events in Afghanistan, veterans may
- Feel frustrated, sad, or helpless
- Experience grief or distress
- Feel angry or betrayed
- Experience an increase in mental health symptoms, such as symptoms of PTSD or depression
- Sleep poorly
- Drink more alcohol or use more drugs
- Try to avoid all reminders or media
- Shy away from social situations
- Have more military and homecoming memories
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.
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
Feeling distress is a normal reaction to difficult events and situations. It can be helpful to let yourself feel those feelings rather than try to avoid or deny them. Often, these feelings will naturally run their course. If they continue without easing up or if you feel overwhelmed by them, the suggestions below can be helpful.
- Stick to Your Routines. It can be helpful to stick to a schedule for when you sleep, eat, work, and do other day-to-day activities. Try to do some of the normal things, without pushing yourself too hard.
- Practice Good Self-Care. Taking care of yourself is always important, but especially during the more difficult times. Eating healthy, getting enough sleep, listening to music, exercising, practicing deep breathing, spending time in nature or with animals, journaling, or reading inspirational texts are some ways to take care of yourself.
- Engage in Positive Activities. Engage in positive and healthy activities, even if you don't feel like it. Doing things such as pursuing hobbies, spending time with people, completing tasks, and exercising can help you cope. Be patient if the things that used to feel good don't feel as good right now; it may take some time. Do them anyhow, while giving yourself some slack as well.
- Focus on the Present: It can be helpful to look at what you can do today and take things one step at a time. Sometimes looking at the bigger picture or trying to look too far into the future can be overwhelming.
- Find Meaning: Are there things you can do that are meaningful? This can be as an individual, with friends or family, as part of a religious or spiritual practice, with fellow veterans, or in your community. Such activities won’t change the past or the things you can’t control, but they can put you in touch with values and meaning and reduce distress.
- Stay Connected. Spend time with people who give you a sense of security, calm, or happiness, or those who best understand what you are going through. Talking about your feelings and experiences with a trusted person can help and shows the strength to be vulnerable.
- Limit Media Exposure. Limit how much news you take in if media coverage is increasing your distress. Written news may be less triggering than photos or video.
- Examine Your Way of Thinking: Are your thoughts distorted or extreme? It may be helpful to look at the nuances rather than go with black-and-white or catastrophic thinking.
- Use a mobile app. Consider one of the Veterans Administration’s self-help apps, such as PTSD Coach, which has tools that can help you deal with common reactions like, stress, sadness, and anxiety. You can also track your symptoms over time.
- Seek Professional Support: It takes strength to open up and ask for help. Many veterans benefit from talking to a therapist, joining a therapy or support group, or talking to a religious leader. It's especially important to reach out if you are having thoughts of suicide. If you are a a USF student-veteran, you can call CAPS to set up an appointment, or call the All Hours line (855-531-0761) any time. See the "Crisis Support & Resources" drop-down for additional resources.
- CAPS All Hours Line: Call (855) 531-0761 any time for support, crisis assistance, or consultation. Available to USF students with an urgent need to talk to a therapist and USF affiliates concerned about a USF student's mental health and needing consultation.
- Veterans Administration Medical Centers: For emergency mental health care, you can go directly to your local VA medical center 24/7, regardless of your discharge status or enrollment in other VA health care.
- Veterans Crisis Line: If you are having thoughts of suicide or other crisis issues, call 1-800-273-8255, then PRESS 1, or visit http://www.veteranscrisisline.
net/ for information on calling, texting, or chatting with a counselor.
- American Red Cross Military & Veteran Caregiver Network: Resources and community for caregivers of military personnel and veterans.
- Elizabeth Dole Foundation, Hidden Heroes Initiative: A campaign that brings vital attention to the untold stories of military caregivers and seeks solutions for their challenges and long-term needs. Visit HiddenHeroes.org if you are a military caregiver seeking community and resources.
- George W. Bush Institute Veteran Wellness Alliance: Join a peer network or sign up to get a care coordinator, who can help you find mental health resources. Call 630-522-4904 or email checkin@
veteranwellnessalliance.org for more information.
- MakeTheConnection.net: Information, resources, and veteran-to-veteran videos on challenging life events and experiences with mental health issues.
- RallyPoint: A social media platform for vets. Create an account to connect with others online. One feature is discussion boards (Discuss: What are your feelings as the Taliban reclaim Afghanistan after 20 years of US involvement?)
- Student Veterans of America: A network of student vets across the United States. Find a campus chapter to connect with.
- Team Red, White, & Blue: An organization whose mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. Hundreds of events weekly. Find a chapter in your area.
- Team Rubicon: A nonprofit that utilizes the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams. Share your expertise by volunteering.
- Together We Served: A virtual base to connect with and honor fellow service people. Find your battle buddies through unit pages.
- Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS): Resources and support for the families of fallen military personnel and vets. Sign up to be a peer mentor, or request a peer mentor.
- Veterans Administration (VA) Centers: Get help accessing mental and physical health resources and support from other veterans; 70% of staff are vets. Call 1-877-927-8387 or find a center near you online.
- VA Mental Health Services Guide: This handout provides information about accessing mental health services through the VA.
- VA self-help apps: Tools to help deal with common reactions like stress, sadness, and anxiety. You can also track your symptoms over time.
- VA Women Veterans Call Center: Information about health care and other resources for female vets, their families, and their caregivers. Call or text 1-855-829-6636 (Mon–Fri, 8 am–10 pm & Sat, 8 am–6:30 pm Eastern Time).
- VA Caregiver Support Line: Call 1-855-260-3274 (Mon–Fri, 8 am–10 pm & Sat, 8 am–5 pm Eastern Time.