Defence Mental Health is Worthy of More
Defence mental health is a serious issue that needs to be advocated for.
When I say defence, I mean a collective; the member, the support people and the families, especially the families.
Mental illness in general includes a whole range of conditions that affect mood, thinking and behaviour. It’s not limited by your age, weight, job or rank. It affects so many more people than we realise and I think is often overlooked for being a cop-out. Especially in terms of job capacity.
It’s a funny thing, in the sense that you, the one experiencing it, can be completely oblivious to the changes happening in your daily life. The lack of motivation, the changes in personality and impact on those around you (those support people).
Until you hit breaking point.
That point where you decide, you need help. Now.
The questions that go unheard are those of ‘are you ok?’ ‘what’s wrong?’
It can often feel like a distance that can’t be made up. A confusion of what the f*ck is going on (from both parties).
Now you can understand why I, and so many others get frustrated with Are You Ok day.
Not only is it difficult to see a way out, it’s also hard to know when is the right time to start looking.
Is this just normal jitters after a major event? I was told this might happen so it’s normal. And the all allusive, ‘I’m in the military, I can deal with it, I’ve been trained to deal with it.’
The thing is, you are not trained to deal with it, you are trained to do the job. The task. The mission.
There are some really important parts that are left out.
The part where the task is finished and you need to switch off.
The part where you need to go home to your family and not tell them what happened – it’s top secret.
What about the part where you go home to an empty house. Or one that appears so, but instead is filled with thoughts, memories and debriefs led by your own voice.
Mental toughness is drummed into you, but what about mental calmness.
Who does that?
Let’s face it, if you have ever spent time with a member of defence, a lot of them are not going to do mindful breathing, or yoga or meditation or even talk to many people.
It’s a thing you see. Pretending to be tough. Hardening that outside layer so that you can’t be penetrated if worst comes to worst.
But you know what, without the same intensive tools you are given to do your job, to then shut off from your job, how on earth can we expect you to?
More needs to be done.
Mental illness is inevitable for a lot of serving defence members. But what comes next can be altered.
Families and support people can be educated on what to look for, what to do if they notice change and a true check in list of questions to ask. We already support women through PND (post natal depression) in a similar way, why can’t our serving members and their families have support too?
Let’s also not forget those that are in full support of their serving partners. The families and support people.
The fear for loss of job, rank and income, this is what the problem is.
If change is to happen, the expectation needs to match through and through. Single events don’t allow for industry wide culture changes.
It is not discussed because people are too scared to discuss it.
A see it to believe it kind of attitude exists. And I’m not at all surprised. If the stories that come out are all negative, what do you feel about the situation? Negative. Scared.
We will not have less defence mental health incidents by pretending to fix the problem.
If you or someone you know needs help
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
Open Arms: 1800 142 072