Helping veterans to adjust to civilian life

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It’s not always easy returning to civilian life after serving in the armed forces, so Caloundra Private Clinic has developed two mental health programs to help veterans on the Sunshine Coast.

The group therapy sessions are designed to help ex-servicemen and women who may be struggling with anxiety and mood disorders, by identifying early warning signs, stressors and other symptoms. 

“I think veterans have a different world view once they’ve been in the military and sometimes general mental health programs aren’t specific enough for their needs,” psychologist Jenny Melrose said. 

“I think it’s pretty challenging to adapt back into civilian life and it can be hard for servicemen and women to communicate with civilians who’ve never been part of that experience.

“But here, they know they’re not alone and can open up with other people who understand what they’ve been through.” 

Approved by the Department of Veterans' Affairs, the mood disorder program runs for 10 weeks while the anxiety program is held over a 12-week period. 

Participants are invited to attend Caloundra Private Clinic each Wednesday to engage in group discussions with other veterans. 

“Meeting the other vets has been really good,” said Brett Groves, 56, who served in the Australian Army for eight years as an engineer. 

“You hear their stories and it might be something you’ve never thought about but you realise, 'Yeah, that’s my experience too', and you can empathise with what they’re feeling,” added Mr Groves, who has been attending the veteran-specific group sessions with his assistance dog Charlie. 

“Coming out of the military you’ve still got the training ingrained in you – the work ethics and expectations, where you had to jump at every command, you didn’t have a choice. Civilian life just doesn’t work that way.”

The mood disorder program aims to help veterans communicate more effectively, problem-solve, learn anger management skills, implement exposure therapy and grounding techniques, and increase positive connections with family and friends. 

Anyone wanting to attend the programs needs to first see their GP for a referral to a Caloundra Private Clinic psychiatrist. 

Enrolment fees are covered by the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

Read more: Time to address the ‘missing middle’ in mental health

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