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.