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‘You’re not alone’: Focusing on mental health of local vets

Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 8:07 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The situation overseas can take a toll on many of our veterans and families after so many years of boots on the ground in Afghanistan. But efforts are being made here at home to help our vets in a post 9/11 world.

A long road sprawls out ahead for American Legion bikers.

“We’re about to depart for the 13th annual American Legion Legacy Scholarship Ride,” said Cindy Guthrie, American Legion Scholarship Rider.

Mile by mile they’re traveling to Phoenix. But their journey didn’t start here. It began the day of Sept. 11, 2001.

“I am an Army veteran, I served in Desert Storm, my brother was killed in Afghanistan in 2009. And my husband and I do this ride in honor of my little brother,” said Guthrie.

Having served so many missions before their next is to raise money for the children of post 9/11 vets who didn’t make it back home.

“As veterans, we learn that early on in our careers, is that we have each other and we have each others backs,” said Mark Shreve, American Legion state commander.

While they’re working to help the families of the fallen, other vets are working to help those that are still here.

“I may not always have all the right answers, but I know a lot of people a lot of times just want to be heard,” said Lowell Koppert, Aiken County Veterans Council chairman.

Though many of us, even those who put on a uniform struggle to find the words, there are just a few.

“Don’t think of this as a negative reflection of what you did. You were asked to do a job, and you raised your right hand, you volunteered to do that job and you held up your end of the deal,” said Koppert.

At the Charlie Norwood VA, the door is open as it always has been.

“I think it’s very normal to take stock of your service at this time. I think that’s a really normal thing to do,” said Dr. Dustin Wright, Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center chief of mental health.

And doctors say it’s okay to unplug.

“The other advice we give people, it’s a really good time to take good care of yourself, be sure you’re eating right, getting enough rest. The number one piece of advice that I would recommend is stay away from news, stay away from social media,” said Wright.

While you take a breather, remember there are still horizons ahead. And people along the way to help get you there.

“You’re not alone. You’re never alone,” said Guthrie.

If you or someone you know is struggling with the recent news out of Afghanistan, here are some local resources to help:

  • To make an appointment with a Charlie Norwood VA Mental Health professional: Call the main line at 706-733-0188 for guidance on enrolling as a VA patient or making an appointment if you are already a VA patient.
  • Augusta Vet Center: Discuss how you feel with other Veterans in these community-based counseling centers (70% of Vet Center staff are Veterans). 706-729-5762.
  • 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.
  • Download VA’s self-help apps: Tools to help deal with common reactions like, stress, sadness, and anxiety. You can also track your symptoms over time.

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