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The community lockdown that is happening nowadays due to the coronavirus pandemic is a challenging time for everybody and military veterans are no exception. Who are these military veterans? A military veteran refers to an individual who has served in the military but is no longer serving at present.  Military or war veterans are those who are directly engaged in combat during a war.

In the Philippines, in addition to the Filipinos who served the U.S. armed forces during the World War II, a Veteran is any person who rendered honorable military service in the land, sea or air force of the Philippines; was a member of the Philippine Civic Action Group (PHILCAG) and the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea (PEFTOK); or who served in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and has been discharged or separated honorably after a minimum of six (6) years total cumulative active service or sooner separated due to death or disability arising from a wound or injury or sickness or disease acquired in the line of duty.

During the Second World War, between 1941-1945, there were at least 250,000 Filipinos who fought with American forces against the Japanese army.  These were World War II veterans who were promised benefits, pensions, and U.S. citizenship, but were sadly rescinded.  Out of the quarter-million Filipinos who fought in the war, only about 6,000 are still living in the Philippines, all of them are sick, and are living in their twilight years with the average age of 85 years old.

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Veterans are also prone to mental illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, which can be thought of as a result of their experience in the military.   Younger veterans are more prone to drug and alcohol abuse disorders and mental illnesses, while older Veterans are susceptible to mental health problems.

The lockdown in the Philippines has brought fears to the Filipino people, specifically for older people, like the veterans, because they are among those people who can be considered at higher risk to contract the disease. This has made them be bound at home and can go out for essentials like medical check-ups.

These senior veterans are likely to feel depressive symptoms like anxiety, pessimism, loneliness, or disturbances in their sleep due to feeling of isolation or prolonged confinement.

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To promote successful and healthy aging for older veterans, experts say that they also need to be socially connected and engaged with other people. For veterans with PTSD, getting regular exercise has always been key to their recovery. It is also important to have someone who will talk to them or just listen to their stories.  However, all of these have been directly challenged by “stay-at-home” and physical distancing policies.  And because their daily activities had been disrupted due to this pandemic, there is also a possibility that this can cause a negative impact on their cognitive ability, which may lead to poorer quality of life or some disturbances to their mental health.

So, how do we manage the veterans’ mental health during this difficult time?   Does our government offer resources or any positive actions which are aimed to help the veterans in dealing with the negative feelings that they are dealing with during these trying times, such as feelings of anxiety or depression or fear?

You can readily call the National Center for Mental Health if you are among those who are experiencing emotional turmoil in these trying times. Similarly, BetterHelp is always available to talk a veteran through your worries. The private sector and non-government organizations are now in collaboration offering online consultation services through free telephone hotlines.

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