Reach out to veterans during tough festive season

Queenslanders are being encouraged to reach out to veterans this festive season and provide support during what can be a particularly stressful time.

RSL Queensland state president Stewart Cameron said the Christmas cocktail of social get-togethers and crowded shopping centres could make the period especially tough for returned servicemen and women.

"Celebrations can trigger feelings of loss and isolation often associated with sad memories," Mr Cameron said.

"When you're managing depression, anxiety, adjustment disorder or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, even a visit to the supermarket can be fraught. It's no surprise that some people face the Christmas season with feelings of dread.

"Every day seven Australians die by suicide and we know that veterans dealing with the impact of their service are at greater risk of self-harm than most.

"It's crucial we make time to check in with our mates and make sure they're okay."

RSL Queensland Nambour sub-branch and Sunshine Coast district delegate John Enchong served as a sergeant in Rwanda in the mid-1990s and now runs a suicide awareness campaign.

"I'm personally aware of at least four Australian veterans who have taken their own lives in recent weeks," Mr Enchong said.

"It's crucial for the families of veterans and their friends to start talking openly about PTSD and mental illness and remove some of the stigma associated with suicide."

Veterans are urged to use smartphone apps such as High Res or PTSD Coach to manage their condition and receive advice on tools such as breathing exercises and meditation.

They should also exercise regularly and maintain contact with friends and family.

The 24-hour Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service will operate throughout the holidays. Those in need can call 1800 011 046 24 to speak to a clinician.

"As a community, we have an obligation to help current and former servicemen and women this Christmas. Our message to Queenslanders is help us, help them," Mr Cameron said.



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