Open Arms Community and Peer Program expands nationally

Support for veterans and their families who may be struggling with mental-health conditions will be enhanced through a new program currently being rolled out across Australia.

CAPTION: Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester with members of the Open Arms Community and Peer Program during their induction training in Canberra. Photo supplied.

The Community and Peer Program program, run by Open Arms, connects veterans and family members who may be struggling with mental health, with peers who bring a lived experience of mental health issues and, importantly, of recovery.

Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester joined existing and newly recruited members of the Community and Peer Program in Canberra during their week-long induction training.

“The pilot program, held in Townsville, had positive results with peers breaking down barriers to care, improving relationships with key community groups, and reducing the stigma for veterans around mental health and seeking help,” Mr Chester said.

“Since the First World War, veterans and their families have understood the importance and value of mateship that is instilled during service, placing them in a unique position to support one another.

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“This program harnesses that mateship and ensures veterans can talk to other veterans, and families to other military families, to assist each other, with the support of mental-health clinicians.

“This is another important part of the support system – improving holistic mental health and wellbeing outcomes for veterans and their families.

“The national roll-out is a significant step forward in improving the lives of veterans and their families.”

In addition to the six peers from the Townsville pilot, 29 new peers are being trained as Mental Health Peer Workers and will be employed at 14 Open Arms locations nationally.

Also in attendance for the induction training were representatives from key veteran-run organisations with a passion for supporting veterans’ mental health, including Swiss8, Red Six and Survive to Thrive Nation.

Adrian Sutter from Swiss8 said the biggest take-out for him from the workshop was ‘they get it’.

“Open Arms seem to understand the current veteran space,” Mr Sutter said.

“They get what is needed to break the barriers with veterans at the moment, and get people coming forward firstly and then getting them the help they need, if they need it, or just provide someone to talk to.

“That they understand the space is the biggest thing I’m taking away.”

The Community and Peer Program will provide Open Arms with a skilled workforce of veterans from across all three Australian Defence Force services and family representatives, to augment clinical capability across Australia by mid-2020.

Mr Chester said Open Arms (formerly VVCS) was Australia’s leading provider of high-quality mental health, counselling and support services for Australian veterans and their families, as well as some reservists and peacekeepers.

To find out more about the services offered by Open Arms, call 1800 011 046 or visit www.openarms.gov.au.

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Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

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