Wednesday, August 25, 2021

APA Urges Attention to Veteran and Refugee Mental Health During Evacuation From Afghanistan

The news and images coming out of Afghanistan over the last several days have been difficult to watch. APA extends sympathy to the people of Afghanistan and to the U.S. and allied service members who worked to establish peace in the country over the past 20 years.

“The needs of returning soldiers, Americans and allies stationed in Afghanistan, and Afghan refugees are liable to be profound," said APA President Vivian Pender, M.D. "We know that the effects of trauma are long-lasting and take many forms. The APA wants to extend its knowledge and resources around trauma-based care, grounded in years of research, to assist all those coming from Afghanistan.”

APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., agreed. “It is critical that we provide mental health access and support to service members, those in the foreign service and their families, and their Afghan co-workers and families who were evacuated,” he said. “The many refugees and U.S. asylum seekers are at higher risk of developing mental disorders such as depression or posttraumatic stress disorder due to the trauma of fleeing their country.”

Levin said APA and its members stand ready to support those affected in the weeks and months ahead. “We should ensure that our country provides the needed mental health resources to address this traumatic situation for all who need them.”

He added that these recent events are liable to trigger a range of emotions from anger to concern for the people left behind. APA recommends that anyone impacted by these recent events connect with friends and support systems and seek professional help if needed. Talking about a traumatic experience can be very beneficial to mental health. When complex feelings are left unaddressed, they can manifest as stress, anxiety or more serious mental disorders.

The following resources are available for those in need:

For related information, see the American Journal of Psychiatry, “Trauma and Resiliency: A Tale of A Syrian Refugee.”


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