COLUMBUS, Ohio — As the war in Afghanistan comes to an end, state leaders want veterans to know that their service matters and help is available if they need it.
"It's been a tough couple weeks. A tough couple weeks," said State Representative and Navy veteran Haraz Ghanbari, R-Perrysburg, through tears as he reminded his fellow comrades that help is available to them should they need it. Ghanbari served in Afghanistan.
It was the message echoed by the governor and military and mental health leaders in the state at a news conference Monday afternoon.
They reminded veterans their service is not in vain.
"You did what we asked you to do," said Maj. Gen. John Harris, Ohio Adjutant General. He added, "It's completely understandable that you would have emotional or mental conflict right now."
The Director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Lori Criss, says there are a couple hotlines veterans can call including the Ohio CareLine at 1-800-720-9616 and the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255. Criss also directs veterans to ohiocares.ohio.gov.
There, veterans can click county by county to see services available, noting there are wait lists for services through the VA.
"The point of making the local resources available and well known as well is that if you have to wait for services there, reach out for local help now. Talk to your general practitioner, your doctor. Talk to the local mental health and addiction services," says Criss.
Mental health experts also recommend loved ones to become familiar with signs that a veteran may need help or may be thinking about taking their life.
"I just ask all Ohioans and everyone around the country that you take a moment and pray for our service men and women. That they all come back safe," said Ghanbari.