Across the community volunteers provide vital support to people in a myriad of ways, and it’s no different within the veteran community. Veteran organisations often rely on volunteers to support their mission, with their work often supporting the wellbeing of veterans and their families either directly or indirectly.
Danielle Murphy is a Senior Workplace Rehabilitation Counsellor, member of the Australian Society of Rehabilitation Counsellors (ASORC) and Director of Incite Solutions Group in Western Australia. Part of her role is to work with veterans to help them connect with relevant medical practitioners and their community, link them in with professional counselling, and assist them to learn new job skills and find new career paths.
When Danielle meets veterans for the first time, they may be newly discharged from the Australian Defence Force (ADF) or have been out of that environment for some time. They may be uncertain as to what comes next in their professional and personal lives, and they may be trying to solve that puzzle while nursing some mental health issues.
Veterans are referred to Danielle and Incite Solutions Group by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA). Danielle uses a rehabilitation case management framework and counselling to identify three sets of life goals: psycho-social, work or career-related, and medical goals.
Key to making a transition effective and to helping veterans achieve those goals is a collaborative approach that sees a team of professionals working together to support veterans in their individual journey.
“We undertake an initial assessment to explain what rehabilitation is and to get to know what the veteran’s journey has been. We get an understanding of what they have been doing since they were discharged and what concerns are affecting them right now. Most come to us with mental health concerns,” says Danielle.
“Then we work on identifying their goals in the three key areas. We look at things like whether they have a connection to family and friends in the area where they live, do they know what they want to do next in their working life, do they know what kinds of jobs are available, and do they understand how their military service relates to the civilian world and what they can and can’t do?”
After goals have been identified, Danielle says a collaborative approach is vital to put in place a team of experts which can support each veteran. Partners and families are also consulted and supported.
“So many services operate independently and there can be a lack of collaboration, but a case management approach is paramount in ensuring all avenues are covered off,” she explains.
“We meet the individual’s GP, talk about the concerns they have identified, and come up with a plan. We can coordinate referrals to people like psychiatrists, psychologists and sleep specialists, and people who understand the DVA processes and requirements. It’s all about collaboration and bringing all parties together to help the veteran move into their next space.
“Having commitment to a goal and something to look forward to is important for veterans when they transition – they feel they have something to strive for and it’s something they can talk about to other people. But that needs to be done in stages. Someone might not be ready to undertake work experience or study but could do a short art course, for example.
It’s important to put things in place to help veterans feel connected to their local community and to build confidence and overall wellbeing.”
Danielle says practical help is also important to keep a veteran moving forward, such as finding an advocate who can help them through any claims process. “People can get stuck in needing the claims process resolved before they can look at what the civilian world has to offer,” she says.
Danielle believes there is more acknowledgement of veterans and their struggles by potential employers – but she says more businesses need to be willing to give veterans a go.
“For someone who thought they’d spend the whole of their life in the Defence Force, to come out and not have longer-term work goals can be challenging,” she says.
“But it is incredible to support a veteran and to then see them feel they have a way forward. They feel they have purpose again and they know what the next steps are and they see a successful life outside the ADF.”