As U.S. withdrawal concludes in Afghanistan, some veterans now confront psychological aftermath

Afghanistan US Withdrawal
Posted at 9:51 PM, Sep 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-01 23:35:30-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Scenes of chaos and destruction as the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan has more veterans seeking help from psychologist Dr. Scott Fernelius.

"You know, feeling numb or detached or questioning service or those feelings of betrayal - that is coming up," said Fernelius, who is the head of the PTSD Clinical Team at Tennessee Valley Healthcare System. "So PTSD is really a set of symptoms and a diagnosis that relates to exposure to an event that would be considered actual or threatened death."

He said veterans who may have never struggled before could unexpectedly be triggered by America's turbulent withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Fernelius said it's important for veterans to remember any psychological symptoms they may be feeling are normal.

"You matter and your service matters and anything that you may be experiencing right now from anger to grief to an increase in bad dreams to feeling on edge, that is completely normal," said Fernelius, but he said what's also normal is seeking help. "In our treatment in some ways, we refer to as public enemy number one is avoidance."

He said rather than avoid feelings, veterans who may be struggling should lean on their support systems like family and friends and do more of what brings them joy like outdoor activities.

"Especially when it comes to military culture that portrayal of strength and army of one, etc., there can be that pressure to be able to handle one's problems on their own. So we really try to reconceptualize what it means to seek help," said Fernelius.

He said it's the process of seeking help that is a sign of strength. "We're here to help if you need it and please come talk to us, this treatment works for people that engage in it," he said.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, then PRESS 1 or visit click here to visit the organization's website.

Additional resources include the VA's PTSD online coach and several mobile applications for you to download on your device.