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'You're not alone': Local advocates reach out to Western New York veterans

Local veterans advocates said watching the situation in Afghanistan unfold can be extremely emotional for veterans and their families.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Local veterans advocates told 2 On Your Side watching the situation in Afghanistan unfold can be extremely emotional for veterans and their families.

"All of this of course brings back memories of folks' service there, then and now. That means it becomes a bit triggering, bringing up a whole range of emotions," said Dr. Paul Harrigan, a psychologist with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. 

Dr. Harrigan, who is also a veteran, said those responses can vary from mild to severe.

"Distress, irritability, even some mental confusion, a lot of sleep disturbance, and frankly, quite feeling alone and isolated during these experiences," Dr. Harrigan added.

However, a message from veterans advocates, including Alyssa Vasquez with the Veterans One-stop Center of WNY, is "you're not alone" and that help is available.

"If a veteran is struggling, my personal opinion and recommendation to that veteran would be just to go ahead and reach out. Whether that be to reach out to a battle buddy of yours, maybe somebody that you served with, somebody that's just an acquaintance in the area, or one of our local veteran organizations whether that be Veteran's One-Stop Center, WNY Heroes, the Vet Center or the VA," Vasquez said.

She added, "One of the luxuries of my job is that I'm able to cope by helping another veteran out and that's not unique to me. I think that's just a human trait that we have, is we're able to deal a little bit better if we're able to offer a hand up to another, so that's how I've been focusing this week, what can I do to help another veteran out." 

Dr. Harrigan recommends trying to focus on safe strategies to cope.

"Certainly trying to do some wellness activities. Maybe going for a walk, talking with friends or family members about things other than what's happening overseas," Dr. Harrigan said.

He also said it's important to remember reaching out for support is a sign of strength. 

"When we're down a range or we're doing missions we never do it alone, so back here when these things are happening I tell my vets the same thing, you do not have to do this alone," Dr. Harrigan said. 

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