#LanguageMatters – Make a Commitment to Drop the Word ‘Commit’ When Talking About Suicide

Hi Soldier On friends and supporters,

This is a friendly community service announcement.

We want to take this opportunity to thank each and every person across Australia currently doing the #22DayPushUpChallenge. You are making a difference. You are raising awareness about the wellbeing of our veterans. And you are paying a great deal of respect to those brave men and women who have served our country.

We also want to use this opportunity to talk about the language around suicide.

A couple of years ago there was a shift in the way suicide was talked about. The biggest shift was to stop using the word ‘commit’. This is because the word ‘commit’ is usually negatively associated with something – people commit an offence or murder.

Usually when you ‘commit’ something you have done something wrong.

But people who take their own life have done nothing wrong. They needed our help and support, not our judgement.

So we are asking our Soldier On community to make a commitment to drop the word ‘commit’ when talking about suicide. Instead, please refer to people having completed suicide or taken their own life.

#LanguageMatters and we need to all do our part in breaking down the stigma associated with mental health and suicide.

If you find this messaging distressing, Soldier On psychologists are contactable during business hours via psychology@soldieron.org.au. Alternatively, if you would like to speak with someone immediately, including after hours and for crisis support, VVCS is available 24/7 on 1800 011 046 or Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22.

We thank you for your support on this important issue, and we thank you for your continued support in helping us help more veterans with support, services, resources and opportunities.

We hope you have a great weekend.

Cheers,
The Soldier On team

Employment Opportunities – Countrywide Austral

Soldier On is excited to announce employment opportunities with one of our media partners, Countrywide Austral (CWA). Roles are open to ex-serving men and women and spouses.

CWA is a leading custom media publisher, serving as the official publisher for many of Australia’s community benefit and not-for-profit organisations.

The available roles are part of a team of industry sales specialists driving sponsorship sales within the Soldier On publication. Fully supported training is provided by CWA’s sales specialists and is ongoing! Roles are commission based and are not capped. CWA are committed to supporting former military personnel and their families, through flexible work conditions that can be conducted from your home (anywhere in Australia) or at CWA Headquarters in Melbourne, VIC.

If you would like further information about these opportunities, please email the Transitions Team at veteranemployment@soldieron.org.au

Soldier On calls for national collaboration so no veteran goes unsupported

MEDIA RELEASE

Soldier On calls for national collaboration so no veteran goes unsupported

Immediate Release, 16 August 2016

Today Soldier On invited RSL, Legacy, Mates4Mates and Defence Care to attend an urgent meeting in Canberra to create a roadmap for improved coordination of services for veterans and their families across the country. The Director of the Australian War Memorial, Dr Brendan Nelson has kindly offered to host the meeting at the memorial on Friday, 2 September.

On Sunday RSL National President, Rod White said it’s time the government coordinated a united approach to give veterans and their families the best support available.

Soldier On agrees that formalised coordination is important. We have heard overwhelmingly from our community that veterans and their families expect veteran support organisations to work together to deliver critical services. It is our collective responsibility to make this happen now.   

“Soldier On is only four years old and in that time we’ve worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the issues impacting contemporary veterans.  With community and corporate funding, we have developed a range of ongoing and socially connected programs and services to help veterans build more successful futures,” says John Bale, Co-Founder and CEO of Soldier On. “However we acknowledge that RSL and Legacy both have close to 100 years of history and have developed extensive infrastructure around the country.”

“As veterans discharge from the defence force and relocate to every corner of Australia, it is critical that all organisations providing services to veterans and their families collaborate to coordinate services and leverage infrastructure to ensure no veteran and their family goes unsupported.”

“What needs to happen now is for Soldier On, RSL, Legacy, Mates 4 Mates and Defence Care to come together and collaborate to ensure every veteran and their family is supported.”

John Bale says there is already collaboration happening between these organisations. Soldier On receives donations from RSL sub branches and has a formal partnership with Mates4Mates. But in light of Sunday’s article and the increasing issue of veteran wellbeing, now is the time to work more closely together.

“We all want to achieve the same thing – better outcomes and brighter futures for our veterans. So let’s sit down together and create a roadmap to provide veterans and their families with better services across the country. This is the least we could do for them.”

With almost 3,500 organisations listing veterans as a beneficiary, it is anticipated this meeting will create a framework to help these organisations deliver more coordinated and focused services for veterans across the country.

– ENDS –

To organise an interview with John Bale, please contact:

Nicole Thomson-Pride , Communications & Media Manager

0428 076 773

Action – not awareness – will save our veterans

Today you may have seen faces and names of mates no longer with us with news that at least 41 Australian veterans have taken their life so far this year. Soldier On, as an organisation established to support our contemporary veterans, and as an organisation comprised of veterans, family members of veterans and passionate staff, ambassadors and community, is deeply saddened and angered by this news.

Tragically, however, it doesn’t surprise us.

Veterans taking their own life is the final act of a much bigger problem. To stop suicides we must focus on the wellbeing of veterans during their time in the Defence Force, as well as once they discharge from the Army, Navy and Air Force.

While as a nation we extensively train our veterans to serve our country, we could do a much better job supporting them once they take off their uniform and leave the Defence Force. We welcome the discussions and plans today’s article will raise about how we can better look after our veterans.

Soldier On – with your wonderful support – has been working hard to address this over the last four years.

For many veterans, the biggest stressor they will ever face is leaving the Defence Force.

In the blink of an eye they have lost their career, identity, purpose and best mates. Our veterans must also find new careers, often while being the main income earner.

Then there are the mental impacts they may be dealing with from their service to our country, such as PTSD, anxiety, increased stress, depression and social alienation.

The impact of these issues can only be truly understood by those who have experienced it.

While today’s article and the current ‪#‎22DayPushUpChallenge‬ is putting a glaring spotlight on the wellbeing of our veterans, it is action – not awareness – that will save our veterans’ lives.

For the past four years you – our community – has supported Soldier On to support our veterans. You have dug deep time-and-time again to raise money for us. And by doing so, Soldier On has provided veterans and their families with free counselling sessions, wellbeing activities, volunteering programs and education opportunities. More recently, we have also started offering career coaching and employment-ready services, as well as job placement opportunities.

We believe this is what our veterans and their families need: access to a holistic program to help them re-connect with themselves and their loved ones, shape a new identity and find purposeful employment or volunteering opportunities.

Social inclusion and purposeful employment are the cornerstone of our programs. We believe addressing social alienation – and providing social connectedness – is the foundation to helping veterans build successful futures.

Every aspect of our programs – from coffee catch ups to our Timor Leste Volunteer Program; from golf, surfing and sailing days to free counselling sessions; from career coaching to job placement opportunities – are aimed to help our veterans reconnect with themselves, their loved ones and our wider society.

This is what can help stop veterans taking their own life.

Soldier On would like to thank you for helping us deliver these vital services and support to our veterans. But as today’s article has highlighted, the problem is more critical and immediate than most realise.

We must, as nation and as a community, do more.

As veterans discharge from the Defence Force and relocate to every corner of Australia, we must unite as community to deliver them and their families the support, services, resources and opportunities they need to successfully reintegrate back into civilian life and build successful futures.

This is our responsibility – our duty – to those who have served and sacrificed.

Soldier On’s mission is to achieve the best reintegrated generation of serving and ex-serving defence personnel in Australia’s history. It is clear there is still much work to do.

We’re putting the call out to Australia, let’s work together to support and save our veterans before we lose any more lives.

Fact Sheet – Mental Health Illness

Mental illness is not a sign of weakness.

 Mental illness is not a sign of personal deficiency or a character flaw. The reasons for development of a mental illness are complex and are associated with a range of social, psychological and biological factors. When those factors converge, psychological distress or a mental health condition might result. Mental illness does not mean that you are weak or have done something wrong.

Mental illness is not “all in your head”.

Because a mental health condition is not necessarily visible from the outside, sometimes people assume that it’s not really real, that it’s just “in your head”. The reality is that these conditions are just as real as physical health disorders like heart disease or cancer, and a given condition has clusters of recognisable symptoms, just as physical conditions do. The difference is that these symptoms show up as changes to the way a person thinks, or feels or behaves rather than in something physical like a high temperature or broken bones.

Additional Resources if you’re really worried about yourself or someone else RIGHT NOW

VVCS 1800 011 046 www.vvcs.gov.au

 

Lifeline 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au/

 

Suicide Call Back Service

 

1300 659 467 www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au/
SANE Australia 1800 187 263 www.sane.org/

 

Here are some quick do’s and don’ts for how to approach the issue: 

DOs:

  • Communicate empathetically
  • Highlight that supports are available
  • Offer to have a conversation about what the veteran or family member requires right now

DON’Ts:

  • Offer advice on what you think the veteran or family member should do regarding their mental health
  • Say you understand what the person is going through
  • Blame the person or make critical comments about them
  • Dismiss or ignore the person’s concerns or distress

Examples of helpful responses

Issue Raised:

 

Sample Helpful Response:
When a person says that they are having difficulties or struggling to cope:

 

“It sounds like you’re going through a difficult time at the moment. We really want to be able to support you so it would be great to have a conversation about this when you are able.”

 

Do not say “Harden up” or “Well let me tell you about when I went through this…”

 

If a person says they are going into hospital:

 

“I really appreciate you telling me about what you’re going through. It sounds like things might be pretty difficult at the moment. We really want to support you, so please let us know how you’re doing and how we can help.”

 

Do not say “Get well soon”

 

 
Some things you can look out for in yourself or in someone you love or care about:

Mood Disorders.

Mood disorders refer to changes in mood, usually characterised by low mood and feelings of sadness. This is not just everyday sadness that we all might experience from time to time; rather, this is a pervasive experience of low mood that persists for longer than two weeks, and is characterised by a loss of interest and enjoyment in life that impairs daily functioning.

Some symptoms of mood disorders:

  • Low mood, tearfulness
  • Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness
  • Inability to feel good about oneself
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Withdrawal from social supports, including friends and family
  • Changes in sleep and appetite
  • Suicidal thoughts

Signs of mood disorders that you might see in your mates or loved ones:

  • Withdrawing from others, not spending time with friends or family anymore
  • Forgetting things
  • Being overly self-critical and engaging in self-blame
  • Difficulties in expressing oneself clearly
  • Difficulties in making decisions
  • Poor concentration
  • Lack of motivation, not doing usual activities
  • Changes in sleeping patterns

Anxiety disorders.

Anxiety disorders refer to a number of conditions characterised by excessive worry. Again, this is not just “nerves” or someone being a bit of a “worrier”, this anxiety has a notable negative effect on people’s functioning in their professional or personal lives and can result in significant changes in behaviour.

Some symptoms of anxiety disorders:

  • Feeling uneasy and on edge
  • Feeling worried or scared
  • Physical symptoms like dry mouth, headaches, rapid heart and respiration rate, shakiness, sweating
  • Persistent worry thoughts that something bad might happen
  • Avoiding situations that trigger anxiety

Signs of anxiety disorders that you might see in your mates or loved ones:

  • Seeking lots of reassurance
  • Asking excessive, unnecessary questions
  • Taking a long time to complete tasks
  • Distress or withdrawal associated with making mistakes
  • Distress if being observed by others while doing something
  • Distress in social encounters
  • Avoiding social situations 

Trauma- and stress-related disorders

Trauma- and stress-related disorders are conditions that have been triggered by some significant stressor. This might include a traumatic event in which a person could have died or been harmed, or a less extreme stressor like significant changes to personal circumstances, through sustaining a personal injury, or through being harassed or bullied. Post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD) is one of the most common of these disorders, and is frequently experienced by our wounded military veterans and other emergency service personnel.

Some symptoms of PTSD:

  • Being extremely on edge and agitated
  • Avoiding situations that are reminiscent of the traumatic experience(s)
  • Having nightmares about traumatic experience(s)
  • Being irritable
  • Having low mood
  • Withdrawing from social supports

Signs of PTSD that you might see in your mates or loved ones:

  • Withdrawing or disengaging
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Erratic and inconsistent behaviour
  • Irritability and anger outbursts
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Difficulties in making decisions
  • Becoming overwhelmed and avoiding work or home tasks

Things to do that are helpful to promote good mental health

There are lots of things that you can do to improve and support your mental wellbeing:

Talking to someone about how you’re doing:

 

Contact a mate or family member who is caring and makes you feel supported. Try to keep in touch with people regularly, especially face-to-face, to reduce the risks of social isolation.

 

Take some time out to do activities that you find enjoyable and meaningful:

 

Go for a walk in nature, spend some time with family or friends, exercise, listen to music, or anything else that you find brings you some positive feelings. You should still try to do these activities even when you don’t really feel like it.

 


Exercise and eat well:Take steps to ensure a good diet and exercise is part of daily life; eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and taking regular exercise is excellent for stress management and good mental health.
Access support from a professional

 

Speaking to your GP, or getting in touch with a psychologist, is a really great way to get support from someone who will be able to teach you the skills you need to start feeling better. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it takes a lot of courage and will help you to bring support around you and make a positive change in your life.

 

 

A Message from Soldier On’s Director of Psychology Services, Dr Michelle Buchholz

The article released today highlights the incredibly important issue of veteran mental health and suicide. This is an extremely important issue, and one that I work with regularly in my role as a Clinical Psychologist for Soldier On, working with veterans and their families.

If you are feeling distressed, if you can’t stop thinking about the issues raised in this article, or if you are thinking about or planning suicide, it is so important that you seek help. These feelings and thoughts can pass, and it is possible to start feeling better, especially with assistance and support.

Often people feel really hesitant about seeking support, and about talking to a doctor or a psychologist about what is going on for them and how they’re feeling or coping. It can feel really confronting to say to someone you might not know particularly well that you’re having a tough time.

It can be helpful to remember that you are not alone. These doctors and psychologists work with people having difficulties in their lives every day, and genuinely want to help you to start feeling better. They don’t just work with people who have a mental illness, either; they also work with people who are stressed or having relationship difficulties or who are having a tough time at this moment but don’t necessarily have a mental health condition.

Reaching out for assistance is not a sign of weakness. It takes courage to ask for a hand. One thing I hear a lot, especially from current serving clients is that they are worried about the impacts on their career if they ask to see a psychologist. What I would say is that sometimes, seeing a psychologist will help to prevent harm to your career, especially if your symptoms escalate and you’re having trouble completing your duties day to day.

The reason that I encourage people to seek support and treatment for mental health concerns is because I know that it can work and that it can bring relief. Counselling is not just talking about your feelings. Mental health professionals can help you to understand your symptoms, and show you that you’re not “going crazy” and that there is a way forward. They also can help to teach you new skills to help improve and protect your mental health. These are skills that we don’t tend to learn anywhere else in our daily lives, and can help you to deal with negative thoughts and feelings, and bring you out of dark places.

I also want to highlight that there are lots of options for seeking help that you can start to access right now. Soldier On has psychologists in the ACT and in NSW. The Veterans and Veterans’ Families Counselling Service (VVCS) also offers services with counsellors, and has a 24-hour contact number in case you need assistance outside of business hours. And if you speak with your GP, they will also be able to refer you to a suitable clinician, usually under Medicare or DVA depending on your circumstances.

Please don’t wait, please start the process of seeking assistance. Your mental health is so important and there are people who can assist you to find your way forward, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.