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Veteran Mental Health Resources Available Following Afghanistan Withdrawal

Rafiq Maqbool/AP

The military's recent exit from Afghanistan has had a significant impact not only on those in Afghanistan but also on military personnel who served there over the last 20 years.

With images circulating of the situation in Afghanistan, the Department of Veterans Affairs sent an email to veterans reminding them of available resources if they experience post-traumatic stress disorder or have suicidal thoughts.

The Conversation reached out to the VA Pacific Islands Health Care Systems, which serves an estimated 50,000 veterans throughout Hawaiʻi and the Pacific Islands.

"People tend to think of PTSD as something that either you have or you don't have. It actually makes more sense to think of trauma-related reactions as a continuum because everyone who is exposed to trauma is affected by it in a different way," said Dr. Donald Banik, director of the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Programs.

According to the VA, there are several problems veterans can face when dealing with PTSD — among them are anger, depression, substance abuse and suicide.

"You don't have to be a trained professional to ask a veteran if they're okay," said Justin Feinhold, suicide prevention coordinator for the VA Pacific Islands Health Care Systems. "We never want to talk a veteran out of what they're feeling or be judgmental of what they're going through, but just really validating what they're experiencing."

If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD or thoughts of suicide, click here for more resources. Veterans can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 and press "1" to speak with VA personnel.

These interviews aired on The Conversation on Aug. 19, 2021.

Russell Subiono is the executive producer of The Conversation and host of HPR's This Is Our Hawaiʻi podcast. Born in Honolulu and raised on Hawaiʻi Island, he’s spent the last decade working in local film, television and radio. Contact him at talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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