When experiencing an emotionally difficult time, most people will seek support from a friend or loved one prior to seeking help from a mental health professional or counsellor. It is not unusual for friends and loved ones to be unsure of how to best help someone in this situation.
Peer support is assistance provided from one person to another from a position of similarity and common ground. This can be through sharing similar identifying factors (e.g. gender, nationality, age) or lived experience (e.g. military experience, postings, deployment history). To put it simply, peer support is about standing shoulder to shoulder with our mates and their families.
On 25 October 2017, the then Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Dan Tehan, announced support for VVCS to coordinate a support network for those who provide peer support to veterans and their families in the Townsville Community. With the support of Operation compass (an ex-ADF suicide prevention project), this initiative is being piloted in recognition of the valuable contribution that peer support offers to those experiencing challenging personal times.
The Peer Network in Townsville meets monthly to participate in free training workshops and information sharing. The agenda for these workshops is driven by the needs of the peers who attend these meetings and is coordinated by VVCS staff. The meetings aim to assist the wider veteran community by enhancing:
- Access to, and the sharing of, information regarding local services and other support options for their families;
- Increasing the skills of peers to provide appropriate support for mates experiencing challenging times;
- Facilitating formal and informal support opportunities for peers;
- Identifying challenges and deficits in support options for past and present ADF members and their families and working towards generating solutions.
The Community Coordination pilot is currently running in Townsville and includes two full-time Community and Peer Advisors and a Community Engagement Officer. This trial will soon be expanding to NSW/ACT and continue its roll out nationally over the next two years.
As well as operating the pilot in Townsville, we run free workshops open to past and present ADF members and their families, Australia-wide:
This half-day workshop aims to provide introductory training to help members of the veteran community to recognise someone who might be having thoughts of suicide and to link them in with appropriate assistance.
The suicide first aid learned in ASIST can help to see, hear and respond to invitations about suicide. It prepares participants to work with people at risk to increase their immediate safety and to get further help. ASIST applies equally to everyday situations with peers.
VVCS also works closely with other Ex-Service Organisations (ESOs) to deliver training and facilitate greater access to support.
To find out more about the Peer Network and what you can do to support your mates and families, contact VVCS on 1800 011 046 (during business hours).