“STOP, LOOK, LISTEN.” This is advice given to people to be cautious when crossing a street. It is also a reminder to be careful when approaching a possible sensitive situation. When speaking with those who may have served overseas in the Middle East, stop, look, and listen may be the best way for us to approach such a fragile subject.
The events occurring in Afghanistan the past weeks are jarring. It is a situation affecting everyone. None more so than for those persons who spent time in that country in service to the United States. These brave individuals could be affected viscerally: mentally, emotionally, and personally. How we broach such a subject is a matter of tact, sensitivity, and care.
STOP. If we decide to ask a veteran how they are feeling during this time, then stop. Take the time to halt and ask. Remember this is something which is personal, and inquiring about it takes a moment.
LOOK. Whether literally, or figuratively, look at the individual. Make a connection that is more than a passing glance. Let them know we care about them and what they are going through during this time.
LISTEN. Finally, listen. We have taken the step to engage. It is now our turn to listen. Listening can be hard, especially if we are thinking of a retort. Sometimes, it is just enough to listen without the onus of coming up with a solution, or trying to find something to say in response, or reaching a conclusion. Listen without judgement.
The Veterans Administration has provided information on what is available to veterans during this time:
Veterans from all eras are reacting to the events in Afghanistan, such as the U.S withdrawal and the takeover by the Taliban. 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.
Resources available right now
- Veterans Crisis Line – If you are having thoughts of suicide, call 1-800-273-8255, then PRESS 1 or visit http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/
- For emergency mental health care, you can also go directly to your local VA medical center 24/7 regardless of your discharge status or enrollment in other VA health care.
- Vet Centers – Discuss how you feel with other Veterans in these community-based counseling centers. 70% of Vet Center staff are Veterans. Call 1-877-927-8387 or find one near you.
- MakeTheConnection.net – information, resources, and Veteran to Veteran videos for challenging life events and experiences with mental health issues.
- VA Women Veterans Call Center – Call or text 1-855-829-6636 (M-F 8AM – 10PM & SAT 8AM – 6:30PM ET)
- VA Caregiver Support Line – Call 1-855-260-3274 (M-F 8AM – 10PM & SAT 8AM – 5PM ET)
Just being there for someone may be enough for anyone to get through a tough situation. Our ability to make ourselves available to another person is powerful and a statement of how much we care. All of us are in this together. It is important for others to know that they are not alone.