2023 NT NEWS – Toolkit To Give Helping Hand For Veterans by Sierra Haigh (Featuring Heather Latimer, Villy Director)

Caption below picture: Darwin-based veteran Heather Latimer is launching Villy, an app (Villy – Leadership and Support) focused on fostering community connections and normalising support for Defence families. She is hosting a Viking-themed fundraiser at Billeroy House on September 14th 2023.

Australia’s veterans have “amazing support available” but it can be a confronting experience to access it. The latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data suggests the suicide rate for male veterans is 31.4 per 100,000 population per year, and 15.3 for women.

A toolkit developed with support from veterans, healthcare providers and the Black Dog Institute could be key to destigmatizing mental health concerns.  After transitioning out of full-time service in 2021, Heather Latimer said receiving her veteran card in the main was “almost embarrassing”. “My mental health was based around my pregnancy, and I found that hard dealing with the little snide comments here and there and all the stigma associated,” she said.

“I imagine it’d be even harder for people who have done warlike service.” Ms Latimer said the stigma around mental health issues in Defence meant many people decided to “self-medicate with other more socially acceptable things like alcohol”. She said this approach was problematic in its own right”.

The Darwin-based veteran said the Black Dog Institute toolkit would help Primary Health Networks navigate the “complexity” of veteran care. Black Dog Institute head of implementation Janey McGoldrik said the toolkit was a “step-by-step guide” for health providers to implement effective suicide prevention programs.

It comes in the midst of an ongoing royal commission into veteran suicides. “It’s really pragmatic, it’s a road map to implementation from the exploration phase,” Ms Goldrick said. (sierra.haigh@news.com.au)

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