Amy was an Australian Army medic for just over 12 years. She served all around Australia undertook overseas deployments in East Timor, Pakistan, Fiji and border protection off Christmas Island.
Now discharged, Amy is one of the first mentors in the trial Veteran Peer to Peer Support program being run by RSL DefenceCare with the support of St John of God Richmond Hospital.
The Program helps with the recovery of ex-service Australian Defence Force members with a mental health condition by pairing them with skilled Peer Mentors who have also experienced mental ill-health.
The Program creates a ‘helping relationship’ in the form of communication and visits between a Peer and a Peer Mentor with similarities in experiences of military service and mental health challenges.
The volunteer Peer Mentors have recovered sufficiently to provide insight and support for Peers who are on their own recovery journey. Amy is one of the first Peer Mentors in the program.
Amy met her husband whilst in the Army, when they were in Albury-Wodonga together.
During the initial years while posted in Darwin, both were very busy going out field, courses and deploying together to East Timor. Later on during the first year of marriage, Amy and her husband were only together for 13 days in total and at one time missed each other by 4 hours.
Amy recalls the time of her Pakistan deployment where there was a need to liaise with the Pakistan Air Force Senior Medical Officer (SMO) and it was especially difficult due to her gender and the need for a chaperone. The SMO was unable to look at her or shake her hand and her chaperone who did not have a medical background had to be part of the conversation.
Communication was their toughest challenge at the Air Force base due to outdated equipment and the need for chaperones and guides. Talking to the Senior Medical Officer for the Pakistani Army was especially difficult due to her gender - the foreign officer was unable to look at her or shake her hand.
After her next deployment Amy and her husband decided to start a family and start thinking about the next goals. So Amy decided to become a Registered Nurse and juggle study, motherhood, full-time Army and running a household.
“At the time I wanted to leave the ADF, I realised Army life had changed and I was going in a different direction”. Amy found as a nurse she could give holistic care which lacked in the ADF.
“I went on my own journey, but I did miss the friendship and the team orientated purpose ADF provided. I felt like I’d lost my identity and even thought I wanted to take this path, there was still something missing.
“I had to start all over again and find new networks. I realised my service and Defence career had changed my perceptions and values in life. In the Army you know exactly what you have to do and who you are, but I found it challenging to find that spot in civilian life.”
Amy first heard about RSL DefenceCare, through the Women Veterans’ Network Australia (WVNA), when she was in Queensland. She became aware of the Veteran Peer to Peer Support Program at this time and wasn’t really sure about becoming involved.
It was when Amy met team members of RSL DefenceCare at a young veteran’s forum and with the support from WVNA that she decided she wanted to hear more and be involved.
“My own experiences with mental ill health have helped me see the value in this program. To have someone with a lived experience to help you through day to day life is invaluable.
“I jumped on board due to my own experiences in the service and with my family. It’s such a needed service and so important that we do this.
“The program can give us the tools and skills to relate in some way even if the service and experience is not the same. Mentors know about other services out there so it can help with referrals and advice. You are also a bit more fluid and social than in a clinical setting.
“If I could pass on any words about the Program, it is that you need to give it a go. It’s an important program, providing younger veterans with mateship at a time that they really need it.”
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