Veterans struggle with substance abuse, post-traumatic stress, counselor says

U.S. forces leaving Afghanistan
U.S. forces leaving Afghanistan(CNN)
Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 5:04 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - More than 1.7 million veterans got treatment in a Veterans Affairs mental health specialty program in 2018.

Phil Harmon, a licensed professional counselor at Augusta Health who treats veterans, says many veterans are struggling as unrest in Afghanistan unfolds.

“They’re angry, and the level of anger seems to vary from person to person, and it’s tied to politics,” Harmon said.

He says many veterans hesitate to reach out for help.

“They have the symptoms of post-traumatic stress, not so strong they can’t function, and so they just kind of assume they’re supposed to deal with it,” Harmon said.

Harmon says many veterans fight substance abuse, and it’s often alcoholism.

“When they’ve decided to stop drinking there’s a process they have to go through. The drinking, very often, is related to what’s happened to them in the service,” Harmon said.

And although they may have traumatic memories, treatment is viable.

“What they’re struggling with that’s related to the combat is different than someone else, but post-traumatic stress is post-traumatic stress,” Harmon said.

Harmon says many people he works with don’t necessarily struggle on 9/11 specifically.

“They’re aware of what it was, they’re aware of what it has cost us and what we’ve been involved in the last twenty years, but I haven’t run into anybody who’s struggling with it all of sudden this year,” Harmon said.

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