Health & Wellness

War in Ukraine Sparks Emotions for Mesothelioma Veterans

Written By:
Apr 07, 2022
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Reviewed
Written By: Dana Nolan, MS, LMHC,
April 7, 2022
Military Veteran Benefiting from Counseling

Our nightly news and media feeds have been filled with stories, videos and pictures chronicling the Russian invasion and resistance fighting in the Ukraine. It is normal to feel sadness, fear, anger and sympathy for those this war is impacting. Veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma can have all of those feelings and more depending on their unique experiences while serving.

For veterans who were exposed to asbestos during military service, it is common to have particularly complex thoughts and feelings as they battle their disease both physically and emotionally. Whether or not a veteran was deployed in a conflict or developed mesothelioma during combat, seeing the stories and pictures of destruction on the news can surface a variety of memories and emotions.

Empathy for Those at Risk of Asbestos Exposure

It’s normal to want to avoid memories or reminders of negative events, but it can be difficult to avoid when there’s a steady flow of news coverage and personal accounts being shared on social media. As many of the pictures and videos from Ukraine are sadly of destruction of buildings and property, veterans with mesothelioma may be reminded of their own exposure and feel concern for the risks for Ukrainians.

Many common older construction materials may contain asbestos, which can pose an exposure risk when buildings are damaged. The destruction of buildings in the Ukraine could be exposing civilians and military personnel alike to the risk of developing mesothelioma in the future. 

Asbestos was also frequently used in military vehicles and planes, which may still be a risk with the possible use of older military supplies. Veterans can empathize with the ongoing risk of asbestos exposure and mesothelioma to those in an area of conflict. And these images may remind them of their own exposure that led to their mesothelioma diagnosis.

Tips to Help Veterans Manage Stress

It’s natural for veterans with mesothelioma to feel stress related to the physical symptoms of their disease, concerns about upcoming challenges they may face in the future and worries for others they now see in the midst of conflict in the Ukraine. 

Some may find limiting their exposure to the news helpful. For those who wish to stay up to date, print articles may be a less stressful option. 

It’s OK to let others know that you’d like to avoid talking about the conflict. But, remember, talking about stressors with a supportive loved one or friend, mesothelioma support groups or a counselor can be helpful. 

Getting what you are thinking or feeling out can be beneficial. Writing out your thoughts is a great way to validate how you are feeling and release some of those negative emotions. 

Letting others in your life know that you are struggling will allow them to be more supportive. We are all different in how we like to receive support so think about how you feel most supported and ask for it.

Some people like some space to be alone to read, listen to music, play video games or otherwise engage in hobbies and activities that help them feel settled and calm. Others like company or someone to distract them with playing games, watching sports or engaging in a mutual interest. 

If you have been experiencing more sadness, fear or anger related to your mesothelioma diagnosis recently, it is important to acknowledge that it is understandable and not judge yourself for having normal feelings. It’s important to know that there are options for support available. For example, The Mesothelioma Center’s support group is an opportunity for mesothelioma survivors, caregivers and family members to talk. Social media support groups can also be helpful, such as private Facebook support groups.

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