Home' Vetaffairs : Vetaffairs Winter 2016 Contents 7 — Vetaffairs Winter 2016
Dr Stephanie Hodson CSC
Mental Health Adviser
Department of Veterans’ Affairs
HELPING YOUR MATE
Starting a conversation with someone you suspect is
having mental health issues is one of the hardest, yet
most important, things you may ever do.
Your willingness to talk about this emotional issue
with a friend, family member, or co-worker could be
the first step towards their journey to recovery.
People experiencing mental health issues can feel
worthless, hopeless and helpless. They may be angry
or depressed and can feel sad, alone and lonely. Nega-
tive thoughts, such as ‘I’m useless’, and ‘no one can
help me’ can hinder their ability to take a step back and
look at their situation.
The impact of these thoughts and feelings may be
reflected in behaviours, such as staying away from
family and friends, angry outbursts, unexpectedly giv-
ing away major or valued possessions, a severe lack
of motivation, or conversely, impulsive and reckless
If you suspect someone’s behaviour or comments
could indicate that they are not travelling well, then
your willingness to have a conversation with them
about your concerns could help them to start the jour-
ney back to good mental health.
How could you approach
Plan a time to talk without interruptions. Listen to them
without judgement and reassure them that you care.
Before the conversation ends ask what professional
support they are getting. Have they spoken with their
GP? Are they in counselling? Check if they have a crisis
line number to call in case they need it, this is especially
important as there may be times when they feel low and
are not able to access support from family or friends.
If there are immediate and/or life threatening concerns,
call 000 as urgent action may be required. There is no set
structure to follow, and asking if they are OK is the first step.
If you are not comfortable, or feel underprepared to have
this conversation, that’s okay. You can still take action
that will make a difference in their life by expressing your
concern and asking if you can support them to choose and
book in to see an appropriate health professional.
There are also ways in which you can encourage a
healthier wellbeing for your mate. For example, being reg-
ularly involved with friends, family or community groups
can provide much needed support.
Having someone to share their concerns, talk with and
feel cared for, all contribute to a better wellbeing. Try to
inspire them to be active: maybe invite your mate for a
session at the gym or go for a walk or run. Being physically
healthy is important to maintaining good mental health
and regular exercise can be a good way to manage mental
Remember to look after yourself and seek help if
needed. You do not have to be the sole person responsible
The Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service
(VVCS) offers free and confidential counselling to all veter-
ans, eligible ADF members and their families. For support
or to learn more about VVCS services, call 1800 011 046 or
HELPING VETERANS TO FIND
AND KEEP CIVILIAN JOBS
The Veterans’ Vocational Rehabilitation Scheme (VVRS) is a vol-
untary program run by DVA to help veterans with eligible service
under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 to find and keep employ-
ment. Veterans have secured a diverse range of employment
through the VVRS, including self-employment.
Individually tailored rehabilitation plans
Every veteran who partici-
pates in the VVRS works with
a specialist rehabilitation pro-
vider to develop a plan to find
and keep a job. This plan can
include a range of different ser-
vices and assistance funded by
Veterans who are looking for
work can get help in updating
their skills, developing their
résumé and applying for jobs.
Veterans who are struggling
with their current job can get
help to manage their situation
more effectively or find new
From 20 March 2016, veterans
participating in the VVRS can
also get help to address life bar-
riers that are preventing them
from finding or keeping a job.
Now the VVRS offers psychoso-
cial services such as social skills
training, support groups and
pain management counselling.
Medical monitoring services
are also available as an adjunct
to medical treatment.
The VVRS offers pension
protection for veterans in
receipt of a special rate (T&PI),
intermediate rate or invalidity
service pension under the Veter-
ans’ Entitlements Act 1986. These
veterans will not receive less
income than they would have
received without employment
gained through the VVRS and, if
for any reason, a veteran cannot
continue in their employment,
they will have their pension
reinstated at the level prior to
Visit the DVA website at
www.dva.gov.au to read true
stories about how rehabilita-
tion has changed the lives of
real veterans (click on Health
ccess stories) or see Liam’s story
on page 11.
Eligibility for VVRS
The VVRS is open to veterans
with eligible service under the
Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986.
If you, or a veteran you know,
are looking for assistance to
find or keep a job, please visit
Factsheet HSV108 at www.dva.
gov.au/factsheets or your local
VAN office for more informa-
tion. The VVRS application
form D1000 is available at www.
I’ve recently been talking with a psychologist who has worked for
10 years in centres all over Australia with the Veterans and Veterans
Families Counselling Service (VVCS). In her experience, the one thing
that most clients will say is, I wish I had come and seen you sooner.
This made me think about some of the common reasons that stop
us from seeking help for mental health problems, and some advice
about how to get past them.
What will my family and friends think if they find out I am seeing a
mental health professional?
Put yourself in their shoes – if they were struggling, you would want
them to talk to you. Tough as it can be, having the issue out in the
open means it could explain why you may be behaving in a particular
way or why you don’t want to go out or talk much. They might not
understand what you’re going through, but that doesn’t mean they
don’t want to be supportive.
If my boss finds out, it will affect my job
This is a big fear factor for many people, however a change in your
behaviour could be misinterpreted as a performance issue. Mention-
ing your concerns gives you and your boss a chance to discuss any
support or changes you might need to help you stay productive and
to support your recovery. You would be surprised how many bosses
may have had to deal with their own mental health issues.
I’m too busy and just don’t have the time
Would we say that if our leg was broken? Most people average 3-5
visits to a mental health professional in which you work together to
find personally tailored strategies to support recovery, often seeing
good results in only a few weeks. Even if you are in a remote location,
have limited time, transport issues or mobility problems, talking to
a therapist online or via Skype can be an option.
If I go they’ll just put me on happy pills
There are many kinds of help and support available, not all involve
medication. Your GP or mental health professional will explain the
treatment options available and work with you to find what suits
you best. Often a structured intervention targeting thinking, emo-
tion or behaviour can bring about significant change and medication
may not be necessary.
I can sort this out by myself - I don’t need any help
There are many things we can do by ourselves to support good
mental health, including getting enough sleep, exercising regularly,
eating well, keeping stress under control and limiting alcohol intake.
However, when your friends and family are telling you there is a
problem, and the people in your life, your ability to work or socialise
are impacted – it’s time to get some professional support.
Even if I thought I needed help, I wouldn’t know where to go
A good place to start is with your GP. If a GP diagnoses depression,
anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder or alcohol use disorder or
substance use disorder, treatment can be arranged – even without
formal acceptance of a claim – under a DVA program known as Non-
Liability Health Care. Further details can be found online at www.
DVA’s At Ease web site (www.at-ease.dva.gov.au) has a range of
resources to assist, or a free phone call to VVCS on 1800 011 046 can
also provide information and assess your (and your family’s) eligibil-
ity for their service. Current serving members can call the ‘All-hours
Support Line’ on 1800 628 036 or the ‘Defence Family Helpline’ on
1800 624 608. All these services have staff that are not only aware of
the issues that serving and ex-serving personnel and their families
face but also the support systems available.
The bottom line in all this advice: if your family and friends are tell-
ing you that they are concerned, or you’re struggling with key aspects
of your life, you do not need to deal with it alone - instead take action
to make a change.
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