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Help available for veterans struggling with Afghanistan’s collapse

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 10:44 PM EDT
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SALEM, Va. (WDBJ) - As Afghanistan falls to the Taliban after two decades of war, local organizations and doctors want veterans to reach out for help if they need it.

“We’ve been getting more calls from patients that have served, particularly in Afghanistan, having a range of emotions,” says Dr. Dana Holohan, the director of the Center for Traumatic Stress at the Salem VA Medical Center. “Just watching images of what’s happening can be very upsetting.”

The Medical Center’s clinical team offers same-day services for veterans needing mental health treatment or experiencing an emergency.

“Veterans can start questioning whether their service was for naught or questioning some of the losses they experienced were in vain. They can start feeling more hopeless or frustrating or angry or sad,” says Dr. Holohan, who recommends evidence-based treatment for post-traumatic stress, saying even those who have recovered from their initial battles can sometimes need booster sessions. “Just knowing that this is normal, a normal response is to be upset by what’s happening and that it’s okay, and it’s okay to reach out for help.”

Shawn O’Neill is the commander for Chapter Three of the Disabled American Veterans, with roughly 1,800 members in Southwest Virginia. The group works with the VA hospital, also helping veterans in need of housing and financial support

“I think a lot of veterans are looking for a purpose. Once you’re out and feel like you don’t have that camaraderie anymore, we can help with that,” says O’Neill. “There’s any number of ways to volunteer and feel like you’re part of something again.”

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