Critter Corner: Resources for Veterans (and others) with PTSD During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Critter Corner writer, Hayek, is working from home.

Dear Hayek,

My father is a veteran with PTSD who is being cared for at home by my mother. I know the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been easy on them, having to stay at home all time and not being able to see their grandchildren in person. What can my mom do to help my dad get through this difficult time? Is there any virtual mental health care available to assist?

Peetie Esdee-Helpp

Dear Peetie,

Disruptions to everyday life caused by the coronavirus pandemic are putting a strain on most people, including an alarming number of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, such as combat for veterans. The trauma of having been exposed to agent orange during the Vietnam war or having been exposed to chemical weapons during recent conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, or Iraq, can be cause for serious PTSD during this pandemic where an invisible virus is lurking around every corner, ready to attack.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic can of course take an emotional as well as a physical toll on everyone, especially many veterans with PTSD and their loved ones. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs National Center for PTSD has developed strategies that can help with the stress, grief, and anxiety that many people are feeling. The strategies include links to information and resources to support self-care, the work of providers, and community efforts.

Helpful Apps and Resources for PTSD during Coronavirus

The following are helpful apps, information, and resources for those with PTSD and their caregivers:

Yoga for Veterans and Loved Ones

Since the coronavirus put a halt on in-person gatherings, yoga instructor Forest Spall has been leading weekly meditation sessions on the video chat service Zoom. The sessions are run by Veterans Alternative, a nonprofit group based in Holiday, Florida.

According to Kathy Stadler, a veteran who suffers from PTSD, “This is teaching me how important it is to be practicing those tools that give me peace during times I don’t have that peace, or my body won’t let me have that peace,” she said.

Visit the Veteran’s Alternative Website here for more details.

The VA ramps up virtual therapy

COVID-19 has led to a dramatic increase in virtual therapy for vets.

The Department of Veterans Affairs said its mental health providers completed 34,000 appointments with the VA Video Connect app in March, a 70% increase from the 20,000 completed in February. Veterans Centers, which provide counseling services separate from VA medical facilities, saw a 200% increase in the number of virtual appointments.

For those vets who don’t feel comfortable with video chats or yoga, the VA offers mental health care over the phone. The VA reported 154,000 phone appointments in March, up from 40,000 in February. And for those who really need in-person interaction, Vet centers are still open and are taking protective measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including screening people before they enter the buildings and increasing sanitation efforts. Click here for more details on virtual, phone, and in-person therapy through the Vet Centers.

Mental health experts say it is critical that veterans maintain social bonds right now even if they don’t receive formal therapy. They say any sort of support system will help vets get through this uncertain time.

Hope this is helpful,

Hayek

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