Veterans facing mental health struggles as they face fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban

NOW: Veterans facing mental health struggles as they face fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Veterans are saying the mental health fallout has begun after the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban.

People who spent years trying to change things in the region now must face all of that work crumbling away.

Veterans who work with other veterans who struggle with mental health said the coming days and weeks will be critical.

For veterans, the number one thing they want you to know is help is out there, whether at the VA or somewhere else.

"It's really been an emotional roller coaster and it's been really hard to see a lot of my fellow veterans struggling with the same thing," said Rae Anne Ho Fung, clinical supervisor at Rogers Behavioral Health.

She said as a veteran herself, she's already seeing vets suffering.

"What we're seeing is just like this range of emotions -- shock, disappointment, anger, the trail to apathy and numbness, and just this wanting to disengage and withdraw. And we're also seeing an increase in mental health symptoms, especially around like PTSD, depression and anxiety," said Ho Fung.

She said the most important thing is to try and keep your daily routines and reach out for help if you can't.

Ho Fung said suicides have already been on the rise.

"People are just feeling so riddled with guilt about everything that's happening right now," said Ho Fung.

Chris Swift is a peer support specialist with the Captain John D. Mason Veteran Outreach Program.

He said one thing they're pushing for is getting veterans who are in a dark place to consider a safe storage program at local gun shops and ranges.

That's because the most common way veterans commit suicide is with a firearm.

"At times when people do it, they just -- alright, I'm going to do it. You know, if you can, if you can put that in, you can take that impulsivity and kind of stretch it a little bit. The more time in between is the better," said Swift.

But the number one thing -- reach out for help, be it at the VA, your loved ones or doctor.

"We want them to know that we're here to help them, you know," said Swift.

For help right away, you can call the Veterans' Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, press 1 if you're a veteran.

More information on Captain John D. Mason Veteran Peer Outreach Program Resources:

The Captain John D. Mason Veteran Peer Outreach Program (part of the Medical College of Wisconsin), on behalf of the Southeastern Wisconsin Suicide Prevention Taskforce and, is sharing details regarding firearm retailers becoming part of Wisconsin’s “Gun Shop Project and Safe Storage Program” and being recognized as part of the “Coalition of Veteran-friendly Gun Shop Owners”, to help prevent veteran suicide.

The Gun Shop Project and Safe Storage Program was started in Wisconsin by Chuck Lovelace, lead gunsmith, and owner of Essential Shooting Supplies, LLC., along with Safe Communities Madison-Dane County, and is comprised of two parts:

The Gun Shop Project is an educational piece where we provide gun shop owners and their staff materials on suicide prevention, such as tips for staff – how to identify warning signs and effectively handle those situations, as well as providing responsible firearm ownership materials, such as 11 Commandments of gun ownership, and suicide prevention resources to customers upon purchase or rental of a firearm, or recreationally shooting at the range, in order to help prevent suicide.

The Safe Storage Program is where the gun shop/range would provide voluntary, temporary, safe storage of a firearm for a veteran or individual who is in a temporary crisis.

There will also be a panel coming up with the Medical College of Wisconsin as part of Suicide Prevention Month in September, click here to learn more.

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