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As pandemic continues, veterans feel strain on mental health

As the pandemic grips much of the nation, the discussion grows louder about the effects it may have on mental health.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Jeremy Harrell sees the similarities when it comes to his service with the U.S. Army and his experience living in the coronavirus pandemic.

"It's a really interesting dynamic because you were either working really hard, it was really intense, or you were very lonely and bored," he said.

Harrell knows too well how these similarities and stresses can trigger some serious problems in some of his fellow veterans.

"Those who struggle with debilitating PTSD and suicidal thoughts, depression and things like that, this can be a very triggering situation for them," he said.

Harrell founded Veteran's Club to help veterans struggling after leaving the service, with many struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He said these days, many of the veterans he's helped pointed to their mental health as their biggest concern during the coronavirus pandemic.

"It was even a greater fear than lack of finances, job loss, childcare, things like that," he said. "It was light years above the rest."

With many of the Veteran's Club's programs forced to cancel for the time being, Harrell said he and his fellow veterans have adjusted. They have created a team of on-call mental health clinicians and are also holding weekly video calls to let the veterans know that while they practice social distancing, they don't also have to practice social isolation.

"We share resources, job opportunities, just any kind of information that we can get out," he said. "And we also just have conversations. We just talk to one another and stay connected that way."

He said the methods may have changed, but the goal continues to remain the same - making sure veterans not only get help but are also comfortable seeking that help as well.

"There's no stigma attached to them," he said. "It's what we should do. We require maintenance of ourselves both physically and mentally."

►Contact reporter Dennis Ting at dting@whas11.com. Follow him on Twitter (@DennisJTing) and Facebook. 

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