Responding to a Crisis

A Crisis Response Guide for Ex-Service Organisations, Welfare and Pension Officers and Veteran Community Volunteers

This information has been developed as part of the Crisis Assistance Program in consultation with ex-service organisations and the veteran community.

How do you respond?

Seek Assistance

First, decide whether you think the veteran concerned will harm themselves or others. If you think this is possible you should immediately call Police, Ambulance, the nearest Public Hospital Mental Health Triage Team or Poisons Information Centre if they have taken poison or harmful substances.

Although you may think there is no physical danger to the veteran or others, it is important that you seek assistance from trained health professionals or crisis counsellors, if alcohol, medication or drug abuse is involved.

Time-Out Accommodation

A Vietnam veteran in Crisis Category Group 3 may be eligible for short-term accommodation for up to 5 days under the Crisis Assistance Program, to allow time for the veteran to seek VVCS assistance to help address issues that precipitated the crisis. The Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) and/or Veterans Line are the sole authorising agents for this service and Vietnam veterans seeking assistance through this service must be assessed for eligibility by VVCS or Veterans Line.

To be eligible, the veteran must be a Vietnam veteran, be assessed by VVCS/Veterans Line as Crisis Category 3, agree to follow-up with VVCS and provide name of a contact person. This short-term crisis accommodation does not provide the level of support necessary to safely manage people affected by alcohol or drugs.

Duty of Care

You need to understand your duty of care to veterans and family members who may seek your help.

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs cannot offer you legal advice on these matters. Rather, you should approach your ex-service organisation. However, we want you to know that there are risks involved in dealing with a crisis, particularly if your advice results in harm to an individual. You should be aware of your limitations in abilities, skills and resources and acknowledge that you are not in the role of a treating health professional.

The most basic rule is that you must take reasonable care not to cause any further harm to the individual.

Confidentiality

The veterans and family members you work with are entitled to have their affairs respected in a confidential manner. This means that you should not disclose or share any details that are discussed with anyone else, unless you have the individual’s personal agreement to do so.

Caring for yourself

Dealing with crisis can be stressful and draining for you as well as the person you are trying to assist. You may feel:

  • distressed or helpless about the other person’s situation
  • angry or frustrated that the person did not seem able to help themselves or that organisations couldn’t do more
  • torn between your loyalty to or sympathy for the veteran and your understanding of the limits of services that exist in the community
  • overwhelmed with the extent of your involvement in trying to help someone else.

Caring for yourself is important if you are going to be helpful to others. Often when people are in crisis it is difficult for them to see the effect of their behaviour on others, even those trying to help them. Remaining calm, being clear about what you can and cannot do and knowing when to seek advice or assistance are important to protect you against excessive emotional pain or demands.  Helping others through a crisis situation can leave you with questions or reactions. They are not unusual and talking to someone familiar with crisis situations can be helpful.

For assistance, referrals and further information

contact Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS). During business hours 1800 011 046 will connect you to the nearest VVCS centre. After hours, it connects you to the Veterans Line after hours telephone crisis counselling service.

Documentation

You will need to keep details of assistance you have given, both for the Departments’ and your own records – it is important that you do this as soon as possible after the crisis event.  Data collection sheets are provided for this purpose. 

Crisis Relief data collection sheet (PDF 343KB)

You will need to note:

  • The date the crisis occurred
  • Is the client a veteran, Vietnam veteran, partner or child of a veteran?
  • Type of crisis – does the client fall into Crisis Category Group 1, 2 or 3?
  • Was the client referred to VVCS, Veterans Line, Emergency Service or Community Services?
  • Any further comments.

When your data collection sheet is completed, please forward it to your local VVCS centre.

Outstanding DVA claims

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs should be contacted if a veteran experiencing a crisis has outstanding claims for pension or treatment benefits. It may be possible to expedite the processing of the claims and thereby avoid further stress for the veteran.

What if a veteran's situation changes?

Veterans you have referred on to emergency/professional services (eg. alcohol detox units, mental health triage, police, etc) are eligible to be re-assessed for assistance under the Crisis Assistance Program (CAP) when their situations have been stabilised.

Examples:

  1. A veteran in crisis is under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs and needs to ‘dry out’ – whether in a detox unit or some other place. Once the veteran is stabilised (no longer under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs) he/she can be re-assessed for assistance under the CAP.
  2. A veteran in crisis requires medical/mental health assistance. Once the veteran has been stabilised through medical/mental health treatment, he/she can be re-assessed for assistance under the CAP.
  3. A veteran is in crisis and it has been necessary for police to be involved. Once the situation has been stabilised he/she can be re-assessed for assistance under the CAP.

If you find yourself in a similar situation you will need to get the veteran to contact VVCS or Veterans Line for a re-assessment, once his/her situation has stabilised.