Afghanistan war veterans need more mental health help

August 30 marks the anniversary of the disastrous US withdrawal from Afghanistan. For the approximately 3 million veterans who served in the global war on terror, discussing the subject still engenders visceral anger. It is difficult for them to reconcile the events of the past year with the noble missions they have sought to fulfill.

Keeping Afghanistan free from terrorist networks and giving Afghans the ability to choose their national destiny free from the oppressive Taliban regime are achievements that vanished in a few chaotic days. Adding moral insult to injury, we have lost 13 brave servicemen and abandoned our Afghan allies, mostly interpreters, who have fought alongside us for two decades, with estimates ranging from 76,000 to 160,000 still in the country today.

All of these things undoubtedly contributed to the results of a recent Mission Roll Call campaign. surveyin which 73% of veterans said withdrawal had a negative impact on how they perceived American heritage in the War on Terror.

At present, it is impossible to quantify the effects this has had on the suicide rate of veterans. But based on my experiences intervening to help suicidal friends, it would be easy to bet on the negative, especially given the larger context. Since 2001, the budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs has increased by $253 billion, with particular emphasis placed on addressing the suicide epidemic. Still, according to the VA’s own data, about 6,205 veterans die by suicide each year, and frankly, that number is probably a low estimate given data collection issues.

We can’t go back and ask them what exactly their tipping point was. But the data suggests that relationship difficulties, unemployment, substance abuse, acute financial stress, lack of peer support and mental health play an important role. What has become abundantly clear is that the limited approach taken by the VA in looking at suicide through the prism of mental health – primarily talk therapy and medication when a problem already exists – n didn’t work. Data and common sense confirm this. Without changing this approach, the problem will persist.

For those who have never served in the military, it can be difficult to comprehend the extent of this problem. Apart from our sacred obligation to support our service members and veterans, why should it matter to them?

The short answer: Because veterans have a higher predisposition to serve and lead local communities, have access to education and job training that make them great entrepreneurs or employees, and can bridge the partisan political divide. plaguing this great country because they know how to work with people they disagree with toward a common goal.

But we are losing them at an astonishing rate, and America cannot afford to continue this tragic status quo.

The anniversary of the withdrawal from Afghanistan was a reminder of the moral anguish suffered by veterans of the conflict and of our failure as a nation to ensure that veterans across the country do not succumb to the war at home. We should take this opportunity to re-examine our approach to this issue. We have an obligation to do more. To engage and fund community organizations more aggressively and leverage their ability to educate and coordinate care for the 50% of veterans who do not use VA. Get creative with preventative solutions like service dogs, mentoring programs, and other holistic approaches.

Veterans need communities that care about their unique struggles and are motivated to catch them before they reach a crisis point, helping them find purpose and empowering them to use the skills and benefits of their military service. The status quo has failed, and communities across the country cannot afford to maintain it.

Cole Lyle is the executive director of Mission Roll Call, a former political adviser to the US Senate and US Department of Veterans Affairs, and a veteran of the US Marine Corps. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.

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