Open ArmsINFO Hub Proudly supported by Defence Bank
Hands up if you’ve ever felt alone in this Military Life?
Exhausted? Angry? Confused? Unsure?
Maybe you’re over jumping through hoops you didn’t even know you had to jump through while juggling all the balls?!? Or kinda struggling to come to terms with the huge amount of change or uncertainty that Military Life adds.
Have you wanted to scream or cry or run away, and not even a long venting phone call to your bestie or Military Life Catchup helped?
If you answered yes, then it might be time to call in the professionals – Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling service. Here in Australia military partners and families have FREE access to Open Arms, and you don’t need to be at crisis point to speak with a counsellor.
So, what is Open Arms?
Founded by Australia’s Vietnam veterans and formerly known as Vietnam Veterans’ Counselling Service (VVCS), Open Arms provides confidential counselling, group programs and peer support to anyone who has served (one day service) in the Australian Army, Navy or Air Force, and to their partners and families (YOU and ME). The service can be accessed 24/7 by calling 1800 011 046 and has counsellors and psychologists in most major city centres along with outreach counsellors (social workers) to help those is rural and remote areas.
What are the requirements to access Open Arms?
As the partner of a serving member, you can use the service for ANY mental health struggles – defence related or not – and you don’t need to be officially recognised by the ADF as a dependent or partner. You can access counselling and psychology services as a couple or on your own, and Open Arms can also support your children in some instances. You can also access the service in the unfortunate event of your relationship ending with the Veteran (for a period of five years) or if you are co-parenting a child under 18 years of age with someone who has served.
How do you get in touch?
I know dialling a number and asking for help from a complete stranger can be scary – trust me, I’ve been there. I added it to my to-do list day after day and put it off day after day but I finally made the call just over a year ago and I am soooo glad I did because Open Arms is there to help without judgement and they have made it easy to take that first step.
You can do any one of the below;
• Call 1800 011 046
• Fill out the webform at www.openarms.gov.au
• Visit an Open Arms office or Veterans’ and Families’ Hubs (in various locations but not all around Australia)
• Get a referral from your GP or health professional
You also have the option to ask to speak to a psychologist over a counsellor (social worker), and if you don’t gel with the person you are matched with, you can change to someone else by calling the 1800 number again and asking for another referral.
When should I get in contact?
If you’re not feeling 100% ok or are worried about your mental health, please contact Open Arms right away. But remember you do NOT need to be at the point of breakdown to access this service. You can link in with Open Arms at any point (whether you have been a defence partner for 2 days or 20+ years) to keep on top of your mental health or begin building a relationship with a mental health professional because we all know there is a deployment/posting/separation/training exercise on the horizon just waiting to play havoc with our stress levels….. or even a military surprise we hadn’t even thought could be around the corner.
What was my experience with contacting Open Arms?
When I finally gave myself the pep talk I needed and took the step to call Open Arms, I spoke with an operator who asked for my basic details and my connection to defence. I only needed to supply my partner’s name but hey, if I had just wanted to talk to someone there and then and debrief on the spot, the person on the other end of the line would have been only too happy to have a chat about what I was going through.
Next, I was put through to an intake clinician who asked about my support needs, the outcomes I wanted and my current situation in terms of things like sleep and appetite. They also asked if I was at risk of harm (that was to ensure that I was safe and didn’t need emergency help).
I was then told they would get back to me within a fortnight – as I wasn’t in crisis – with availability in my area. In the meantime, I received an email to confirm that I had been in contact with them and that they would get back to me. It took about two weeks for a psychologist to make contact with me with appointment times.