VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — As the United States prepares to end its longest war, a local clinic that serves post-9/11 veterans and their families is ready to help provide whatever mental health services they might need.
In April, President Biden made the announcement that all American troops would leave Afghanistan by September 11 of this year, which is the twentieth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at the Up Center has been open since 2019, providing free services to post-9/11 veterans and military families across the region.
"With this withdrawal of troops, we do anticipate an uptick in our services. We know that a number of people who have received services in our clinic oftentimes refer a family or friend," lead clinician Sarah Pitzen told News 3 anchor Todd Corillo.
"With this large withdrawal of troops, we do anticipate a number of them will have an increase need in mental health care. We anticipate doing a lot more outreach to help break down that mental health stigma," she added.
Janel Cisneros is the practice manager at the clinic and also brings a unique perspective as a Navy veteran and current military spouse.
Cisneros enlisted in March 2000, serving before and after the September 11 attacks, and saw firsthand the impact on service members and their families.
She says there's a lot of uncertainty for them, some of whom have heard promises like this before.
For those who served early in the conflict, the recent announcement and talk about Afghanistan may bring up memories and emotions that have been dormant for years.
"From my personal perspective and from those that I know closely, I have to say it does bring back some of that. There was a sense when we when we left on our deployments and when we first experienced these changes that led to this conflict in our in our world, that we were going to go and we're going to come home and we're going to be done and that didn't happen," Cisneros told Corillo.
"It's in the back of my mind as a veteran, all these young men and women who are serving today and what they may be experiencing that I experienced, and it's also in the back of my mind as a spouse what our family may face tomorrow. We want to hope for the best and hope that we have some down time and some home time and some peace time, but we also know that we have to always be prepared for what may come next, and that our lives are written in pencil, so to say," she added.
Both Cisneros and Pitzen stress that the clinic is ready and willing to help in any way possible as veterans, military members, and their families navigate yet another chapter in American history.
You can connect with all the free services offered by The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at the Up Center online or by phone at 757-965-8686.