Open Arms’ community and peer program is currently being rolled out across Australia, with the aim to increase support for veterans and their families who may be struggling with mental health conditions or at risk of suicide.
Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester joined existing and newly recruited members of the Open Arms Community and Peer Program in Canberra as part of their week-long induction training.
“The pilot program held in Townsville had positive results, with Open Arms peers breaking down barriers to care, improving relationships with key community groups, and reducing the stigma for veterans around mental health and seeking help,” Minister 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. 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 the holistic mental health and wellbeing outcomes for veterans and their families. The national rollout is a significant step forward in improving the lives of veterans and their families.”
Twenty-nine peers, in addition to the six peers from the Townsville pilot, 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.
“The biggest take-out for me from the workshop is they get it,” Adrian Sutter from Swiss8 said.
“Open Arms seem to understand the current veteran space. 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 that 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.”