Veteran Family Mental Wellbeing Series – Episode 5: Getting Help and PTSD Treatments

– The psychological conditions that result from military service, are all amenable to treatment. – Generally speaking, when it comes to Post
traumatic stress disorder, early intervention is very important. – So I think the benefits
for seeking help is you can live a good life, you can restore relationships, with family, with kids, and you can find real
purpose in life again. – PTSD doesn’t have to mean the end, because it can be better as a result, that’s definitely our experience. It can definitely be better. – It’s very important to
acknowledge that we have treatments and we have services that
can make enormous differences to the quality of life. – Friends, there is life
beyond the military, and I would encourage you to embrace it. – As soon as you know you have symptoms that may be classified, not as PTSD, not necessarily as anything, but are symptoms that you are
distressed psychologically, then seek help as soon as possible. Because the earlier you get help, the better and quicker, your outcome will be. – First port of call is the GP. One, important to let them
know that you are a veteran so that they can point
you in the direction of veteran-specific services, and also better understand
the difficulties that you might be experiencing. – The role of the GP is
important in providing overall continuity of
care for the veteran. – You can start at points like your GP, a independent counsellor, a clinical psychologist, or even once referral’s been had, to a psychiatrist. – A service called The
Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service, offers a free service for
veterans and their families, and has a 24-hour telephone
line support as well. – And I refer in one instance to Veterans Care Association, which has recently been formed. – Services like Mates4Mates, the RSLs, Soldier On, et cetera, and these can be very good
points of contact as well. – The immediate benefit, for anyone seeking help, for any post traumatic stress
or any other condition, is that you can get assurance that you can get better, that there is a positive
future in front you. The great tragedy today, is that still, almost every week, we have a veteran committing suicide, and probably 10 at the same time, thinking about it or even attempting it. And that’s a great tragedy. If any of those people had come to one of our
ex-service organisations, they would have been warmly embraced, and they could have been
helped develop a pathway where they can restore their health. – Conventional treatments for
Post traumatic stress disorder are best divided into three sets. They are, biological treatments
which include medication, psychological treatments of
which at the moment we feel the trauma-focused approaches
may be most effective, and also what I call, lifestyle factors. And these are controlling those behaviours that tend to promote
positive mental health. Things like regular
exercise, diet, socialising, engaging in meaningful activities, and purposeful and meaningful voluntary or remunerative work. – There is an evidence base around pharmacological or
medicines, to treat PTSD. And at the moment the strongest evidence is for the Selective Serotonin
Reuptake Inhibitor group. Medications can be very important, sometimes for helping people to feel a bit more stable in their mood before doing the psychological therapy, and they’re often used together. – The pillar of treatment for
Post traumatic stress disorder is psychological therapies. And by that I mean, talking or counselling-type therapies. From just a supportive
chat with a counsellor, all the way up to evidence-based
manualized treatments, specifically designed for post
traumatic stress disorder. – The Grade A or the most
evidence-based treatments we have for PTSD, are Prolonged Exposure Therapy, Cognitive Processing Therapy, and both of those therapies
fall under the umbrella of what we might call trauma-focused cognitive
behaviour therapy. And the third is Eye
Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing or EMDR. And all of those 3 therapies
have a strong evidence base for the treatment of PTSD. – In summary, the treatment for PTSD aims to extinguish the symptoms. And we are successful in doing that in a good proportion of people
who approach for treatment. – Anyone who has served
a single day full-time in the Australian Defence Force, is now entitled to apply for a Department of Veterans
Affairs white card, they call this
non-liaibility health cover, and they can get free
treatment for any of those particular conditions on that card. They realise that most veterans
have experienced a number of conditions that are just
common to almost all veterans. And that is, one of them is stress, and another is sun cancer
because we’ve been exposed to the sun, and others are anxiety and depression, and there are a number of
other conditions as well. That sets them in place to
at least be on the books for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and to be aware of other entitlements that they might be able to access. – There is an area that
has been been of interest in terms of research for
the last couple of decades called post-traumatic growth. And what post traumatic growth speaks to is the reality that life after adversity can be positive in terms of their growth, in terms of meaning of life, their psychological wellbeing, and also some of their
mental capacities as well. – Post traumatic growth to me is, I’ve had some bad things
in my life happen. Wounded in Afghanistan, I’ve had friends killed in Afghanistan, I’ve had friends take their
own life and die by suicide within Australia, they’re bad things. But how do I now grow from it? How do I honour them and
bounce back and do well within the community, within our society, and throughout Australia. To me, growing from bad things that have happened in your life, is post traumatic growth. – What the medical model of
Post traumatic stress disorder does, and it’s absolutely necessary, that is, symptom reduction. What post traumatic growth does from a positive psychology
perspective is not so much focused on symptom reduction, but the focus on living a good life, in spite of some of the symptoms
being present sometimes. – Our broad approach at the
Veterans Care Association, is to promote health and wellbeing, through a holistic health model. We absolutely promote peer support, so we offer gathering days
every couple of months, and that provides an opportunity for veterans to come together, to share some of the stories of what’s been going on in their life, and we have a meal together. – [Man] There are a number
of veteran support centres around the countryside,
offering different activities. But here at Nerang we
have a woodwork shop, where people can come in and
create woodwork activities, there is a metal workshop
to produce various you know, do welding and metal cutting, there is a large horticulture
area where people can grow plants and convert them
into other products like jams. But probably the best
facility is just this coming together for a meal, coming together for a cup of tea, to share with some other folks, and help encourage each other. – There’s programs throughout
Australia for veterans, peer support programs. The government is running
two pilots at the moment, one in Townsville and one in Sydney. And that is pairing people, mentors and people that are peers, so really it’s peer-to-peer. – There is wonderful program available called Survive to Thrive. This is really helpful for veterans that might be a little bit
uncomfortable at this stage with meeting face-to-face with others. It’s an online program, and they develop a peer
support model with someone who might be located distantly, and this really is helpful
for people that are living in remote locations, that are not easily able to access an ex-service organisation
in their proximity. Absolutely, we’d encourage
veterans to come together with other veterans
and support each other. – Another space where veterans
gets peer-to-peer support is within community organisations such as Soldier On, Mates4Mates, and Veteran Care Association’s
Program of Timor Awakening. And their contacts and
programs and activities where peers will interact
with one another, normalise some of the stuff
that they’re going through, and absolutely provide an
enormous amount of support and resources, for recovery
and for post traumatic growth. – The Timor Awakening program
is a mountain-top experience, gathering a group of veterans together for a trip to East Timor. And it’s from that two-week
experience in Timor, that they come back and we
then mentor them one-on-one, for the next six months, to help them realise that plan of action, to achieve that healthier wellbeing life. – Initially the Queensland RSL said they’d love to embrace it and created a bit of a flagship program over a couple of years. And we were very fortunate
to have the support of Bolton Clarke, who
was RSL care at the time, to come in and to co-fund us.
And one thing I can say is, for one veteran to
through Timor Awakening, is less than it costs to
have one veteran hospitalised in a psych ward for two days. The key aim of Timor
Awakening is to save lives. – We’re aware that there
are a range of obstacles to veterans in getting help. Clearly if families can encourage them, that is a help. If mates can encourage them, that will be a help. But it normally takes
someone pestering a veteran to actually get them to
actually do something, and I’d encourage people to do that. Because the worst outcome, the worst outcome is to
find that that veteran has taken their life, because they didn’t know what to do, or they felt hopeless. – There are a range and
variety of resources in the community. And what I encourage people to do, is to stay connected to loved ones. What I mean by that is simply be, be available, a listening ear. – Help is out there for the veterans in terms of treating the PTSD, and help is out there for families also. – I stopped living in my mind back on deployment. I stopped thinking about it all the time, I stopped thinking about the military, and I started to focus on things. Like Zoe said to me, you’ve got purpose, your purpose is to be a father, and a husband. They’re two of the greatest things that any man could want in life. And it’s a great blessing you know, to have those two things. So I said, “Okay, I’m gonna
be the best dad I can be, “and the best husband I can be, “and I’m gonna focus on that.” – With Jenna being pregnant
and our baby girl on the way, I think our future’s bright. I think that we’re going to
do well and be great parents. But we’ve had the real conversation about what happens if we are stressed out. Or what happens if I’m not feeling well, or Jenna’s not feeling well. We’ve had that open
and adult conversation, and we both know and understand that it’s perfectly fine to go get help, it’s perfectly fine to speak to someone if we’re not feeling well, or if we’re feeling uncomfortable.

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