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Veterans & Active Duty

Overview

Being away from home and exposure to stressful and dangerous situations can have a negative impact on your mental health and well-being. Returning home or leaving the defence force can be just as difficult time for some.

In 2021 the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that there were “more than half a million Australians who had served. or were serving, in the Australian Defence Force” and around “one in five reported they had one or more long-term health conditions” with mental health being the most common condition reported.

Some of the mental health conditions you may face during or post-service include:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Unfortunately, due to negative attitudes and stigma some people do not talk about their mental health experiences. However, your mental health should be treated as equally important as your physical health.

Supporting yourself

There are a number of resources and services that can help you on your journey to improving your metal health and well-being. Whilst professional support may be a crucial element for some, there are other areas of your life that you make changes to that will support your overall health and well-being.

Eating well

Good nutrition plays an important role in supporting your mental, physical and emotional health as well as in the prevention and treatment of physical and mental health conditions. If you aren’t quite sure what foods are best for your body and lifestyle speaking to a nutritionist or dietician can be helpful.

Maintaining physical exercise

Physical activity is important at all stages of your life however it can be difficult to get in the habit of regular exercise when you aren’t feeling your best. Physiologist treatments (aka Physio Therapy) and Exercise Physiology can be helpful if you are dealing with chronic pain or injury.

If you are finding it difficult to get into a routine services such as Veteran Benefits Australia offer exercise programs to help support you to get back on track.

Sleep

Sleep is an important component for staying mentally well however insomnia and poor sleep are not uncommon in veterans and active defence force members.

There are a few things you can do to support yourself in getting a good nights sleep:

  • Limit or remove caffeine and alcohol intake before bed.
  • Avoid using screens and electronic devices at least 60 -90 minutes before bed.
  • Try and create a relaxing sleep space.
  • Keep a sleep diary. This will help you track your sleep patterns and can be helpful if you choose to discuss sleep with a health professional.

If poor sleep is impacting your day to day life and you are experiencing ongoing nightmares, poor quality of sleep or insomnia it can be helpful to seek support from a health professional. Your health professional may offer other treatment options for you such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or medications for insomnia.

Drinking responsibly

You may consume alcohol for a number of reasons, socialising with friends and family or to deal with difficult emotions or chronic pain for example. Although ‘having a few cold ones’ at the end of the day may be the social norm for many, excessive alcohol consumption is a concern and poses major health risks. Drinking to numb your feelings or pain is also something that needs to be addressed.

With that said you don’t have to consume large amounts of alcohol often for drinking to become a problem. Whether you engage in excessive drinking on a regular basis or on the odd occasion alcohol use and intoxication increases the likely hood of other issues such as drink driving, relationship problems, alcohol related violence and injuries, heightened pain sensitivity, physical and mental health concerns and alcohol dependency.

If you are concerns about your alcohol consumption the Australian Department of Defence recommends the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) as “the most widely used screen for alcohol use in Australia.”

Making time for relationships

It is important to make time for others, remain social and continue to build on your relationships with your partner, family, friends or peers. Returning home may be an adjustment for you. Remember your family and friends are your biggest supporters, be honest with them and let them know if you need time and space.

Staying active in your community 

Transitioning from service is a time of great change that can be challenging and requires planning. For some continuing to serve the community is an important priority.

Services such as Serving On support career transition as well as offering a national volunteering program providing skills, opportunities and support to veterans.

Supporting another person

If you are a family member caring for a veteran or someone who is currently serving you may have questions about how you can best support them.

This can be a difficult time for everyone, you may notice changes in your loved one or have concerns about their behaviour. It is important that you talk to them and seek external support if your concerns continue.

Some things to look out for include the person:

  • isolating themselves
  • showing a lack of interest in activities or life
  • engaging in incidences of anger or violence
  • showing difficulty adjusting when they return home
  • experiencing anxiety
  • increasing their alcohol or drug use
  • is unable to sleep

If you feel concerned for your loved one, frustrated by or unable to understand the changes you are seeing in them there are services available that provide support and information to defence partners and families across Australia:

 

How we can help

If you or someone you know is in crisis

If you are worried you may harm yourself or someone else, or need immediate help for someone else in this situation:

Please call 000

If you are in distress

Other helplines

Please select a state you live in

Suicide Call Back Service

Available 24/7

1800RESPECT (Domestic Violence Support Line)

Available 24/7

13YARN (First Nations Peoples Crisis Support Line)

Available 24/7

Finding North - Information & Referral Service (Partner organisations)

Available Weekdays 9am-5pm

Defence All Hours Support Line

Available 24/7

MensLine Australia

Available 24/7

Access Mental Health Line

Available 24/7

Canberra Head to Health Centre

Hours vary

NSW Hospital and Health Services

Available 24/7

Penrith Head to Health

From 1pm

NT Mental Health Line

Available 24/7

Darwin Head To Health

Mon to Fri 10 am -10 pm. Weekends 12 pm to 8 pm

Health Direct

Available 24/7

1300 MH Call

Available 24/7

Townsville Head to Health

Weekdays 10am -10pm and Weekends 12pm -10pm

SA Mental Health Triage

Available 24/7

Urgent Mental Health Care Centre (UMHCC)

Available 24/7

Access Mental Health- Helpline Triage

9am - 10pm

Launceston Head to Health

9sm – 5pm Monday to Friday

NURSE-ON-CALL

Available 24/7

Victoria Psychiatric Triage

Available 24/7

Geelong Head to Health

Mon to Fri 9am–9pm. Weekends and Public Holidays 1pm – 6pm

Rurallink -Mental Health Emergency Response Line

Weeknights 4:30pm-8:30pm / 24hrs on Weekends and Public Holidays

Peel -Mental Health Emergency Response Line

Available 24/7

TTY - Mental Health Emergency Response Line

Available 24/7

Metro - Mental Health Emergency Response Line

Available 24/7

Perth Midland head to health

10am - 8pm

Please select a state you live in
Service Options
Quick Escape