Veterans suffering as a consequence of their service need far more than someone simply asking them how they are. The national RUOK campaign is a magnificent initiative to help identify someone at risk but at Christmas time unlike any other period across the year the risk of depression and suicides are far greater especially among Veterans who have been exposed to mental trauma or physical injury that isolates them.
The young men and women returning from Afghanistan, Iraq, East Timor and the many other peacekeeping and peacemaking operations since the first Gulf War in 1990 need us to understand their unique problems, know that we are doing everything possible to help them and see us implementing initiatives that will see them “survive the peace of Christmas” after suffering the horrors of conflict.
Figures collated by ex-serviceman and RSL welfare officer John Enchong show 220 serving and non-serving military personnel ended their own life between 1980 and mid-2015 — 95 of them lost since 2011. Having served in Rwanda in 1994, John recently spoke at a special Remembrance Day service on the lawns of Parliament House.
“We want to raise awareness and get the message to both veterans and their families that help is out there,” he said. “Post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and mental health problems do not have to be a death sentence.”
Problems do not need to be exacerbated by having to negotiate a complex bureaucracy while processing their claims but that is often what happens when finding appropriate incident documentation and medical records from many years prior is difficult. The shift in claims from physical injuries to metal trauma under the SRCA & MRCA legislation has extended the time taken for staff to complete them within the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
This is an area that The Alliance of Defence Service Organisations (ADSO)*has identified as of critical importance and is working with Government, the Department and other major ex-service organisations to institute appropriate training in relevant aspects of legislation and close the gaps in any regulatory shortcomings that prevent immediate and appropriate support being provided to the men and women who have served their nation and ask only that they be cared for properly in their time of need.
Anyone needing help now or at any time of the year should immediately contact a 24-hour telephone counselling hotline, or you can request a welfare check to be conducted for a friend by contacting your local police station.
Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) on 1800 011 046 (international: +61 8 8241 4546)
Lifeline on 13 11 14
Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
Emergency line 000 or call 112 on a mobile phone
Beyond Blue 1300 22 46 36
The Defence Force Welfare Association (DFWA),
Naval Association of Australia (NAA),
RAAF Association (RAAFA),
The Royal Australian Regiment Association (RARA),
Australian Special Air Service Association (ASASA),
Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia (VVAA),
Australian Federation of Totally and Permanently Incapacitated ExService Men and Women (TPI),
Fleet Air Arm Association of Australia (FAAAA),
Partners of Veterans Association of Australia (PVA),
Royal Australian Armoured Corps Corporation (RAAC),
National Malaya & Borneo Veterans Association Australia (NMBVAA),
Defence Reserves Association (DRS), and
Australian Gulf War Veterans Association (AGWVA).