The Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service celebrated its 35th birthday on 29 January this year – one of many support services available to serving and former serving Defence personnel.
If the best overall capability is to be achieved within the Australian Defence Force, members must have the best mental and physical health.
Originally the Vietnam Veterans’ Counselling Service, the service provides free mental health counselling and support to those who have providing over 1.6 million counselling sessions since 1982, to more than 300,000 veterans and their families.
More than 27,000 clients are year are counselled throughout Australia, through the many centres and a strong network of outreach counsellors in regional and rural areas.
The service provides treatment for service-related issues including anger, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and sleep disturbance. The counsellors also work with couples and families on relationship issues that come up as a result of the demands of military life, and run a range of group programs such as suicide prevention workshops.
Defence members may react to different factors, like interpersonal trauma, vocational, financial or legal difficulties, can precipitate suicide, self-harm, or harm to others.
Defence members seeking help for suicidal behaviour can be a complex and sensitive issue, so it is vital that all have sufficient confidence in the ability of mental health professionals, commanders and managers.
Those Defence members at risk of suicide who are effectively supported are more likely to recover and continue their contribution to the Australian Defence Force and broader community.
There are four levels of the Defence Force suicide prevention program:
1. Introductory suicide prevention training
2. Keep Your Mates Safe - Suicide Prevention Training
3. Suicide first aid - Applied Suicide Intercept Skills Training
4. Clinical up-skilling - Suicide Risk Assessment Training
Recognised dependants of Defence Members can also register for the National Australian Defence Force Health Program. These recognised dependents will be entitled to a reimbursement of the gap expenses when they visit their general practice.
Defence provides $400 per family member per financial year to use towards non-cosmetic allied health series and/or offset the gap expenses when visiting a medical specialist. Some of the services covered include audiology, chiropractic/osteopathy, dental, physiotherapy, psychology and speech therapy.
The Defence Force Rehabilitation Program has been developed to help those members who have suffered injury or illness return to a normal state of readiness as soon as possible following injury or illness.
The program is a multi-disciplinary strategy aimed at maximising an individual’s potential for restoration of their status pre-injury.
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs provides support to current and former serving members and their families through a range of benefits, through a situational analysis that provides the member with ongoing or one-off payments.
Support through Veterans’ Affairs is also available in the case of injury, disease, death, impairment, incapacity for work, and a number of other misfortunes that may result in increased difficulties to that member’s life.
Compensation is also available to members who sustained physical or psychological impairment or incapacity related to their defence service.
The following websites and contact numbers are for anyone who is or knows of anyone in need of assistance:
Suicide prevention: http://www.defence.gov.au/Health/DMH/SuicidePreventionProgram.asp
ADF Family Health: http://adffamilyhealth.com/
Veterans and Veterans families counselling service: 1800 011 046 / http://www.vvcs.gov.au/
Australian Defence Force mental health all hours support line: 1800 628 036
Defence family helpline: 1800 624 608
Information regarding sourced from a release from The Hon Dan Tehan MP.