The second episode in our new podcast A World Where LivingWorks is “Protecting Our Protectors”. This episode is all about living well in the defence and military communities and asking that all important question, when it comes to suicide and mental health, how are we protecting the lives of those who protect ours?
Host Kim Borrowdale speaks with Seargent First Class Chris Allen, Suicide Prevention Program Manager for the South Carolina Army National Guard in the USA, and Dr. Stephanie Hodson, National Manager of Open Arms, a Veterans and families counselling organization in Australia.
Both are Veterans and both their organizations use LivingWorks programs, as well as others, to keep their communities safe from suicide. In the podcast they both zeroed in on some similarities they see when it comes to those who serve in the military regardless of which country you’re from.
“It’s really all about relationships, you know, you’re building relationships in the military and then you either break them when you come back from deployment and then your long term relationships, your spouses, your boyfriends/girlfriends, your children, parents, even those relationships are put under a strain during the cycle of deployments that we’ve had over the years,” says Allen.
Along with relationship stresses that can sometimes take a toll on mental health is the readjustment to civilian life. Dr. Hodson notes, “What we actually find with our suicide rate in Australia, is when you are serving, your risk of suicide is significantly lower than the general community, but when you leave, it doubles.”
She reflects on her transition out of the military, “Oh my goodness, it was so hard, the first couple of years, readjusting to not being able to go back on base, not having the same sense of team, not having the same sense of purpose. As much as I have purpose, it’s not the same as when you were serving: so loss of team, loss of meaning, and then the impact on family, the impact on family is absolutely huge.”
Both have noticed that training those who serve in the military, and extending that same training to their family, helps them all to be caregivers and adept at self-care. And that in the early years they couldn’t fill their trainings, but now it has gone from people in the classes being there because they were voluntold, to having waiting lists. “It’s just taken on a life of its own, now we have people wanting to come into the class instead of us begging people to come to the class to be trained,” says Allen.
And a big part of getting trained to be suicide aware is listening. “The bottom line is it’s about listening, it’s about having the confidence to actually listen, that too many times we quickly wanted to, in the past, move somebody onto you know the medical support system, when in reality they talked to you because they want you to listen, and the biggest thing we can all do is take the time to listen when somebody is asking for help and that’s step one, and then you can start thinking about the referral pathways, which are also important, but listening is step one,” says Dr. Hodson.
Listen here for the entire podcast and watch the site each Tuesday for new episodes. Next up, Episode 3 “Young People and the ‘S’ Word” where host Kim Borrowdale talks to Associate Professor Jo Robinson from Orygen, a youth mental health organization in Australia, and Kathleen Snyder, a long-time LivingWorks trainer based in one of our biggest markets, California.