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Open Arms – Veterans & Family Counselling was founded by Australia's Vietnam veterans. It is Australia’s leading provider of mental health assessment and counselling for Australian veterans and their families.

Open Arms welcomes its partnership with the Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL) to deliver mental health training to any volunteers in the veteran community.

National Manager of Open Arms, Stephanie Hodson said "most people with thoughts of suicide will signal their distress and invite help. 

"These workshops give everyone the opportunity to learn skills that will help them to respond and assist."

Up to 7,000 volunteers across Australia are expected to access training over the next three years to enhance their capability to recognise ‘at risk’ veterans, and provide intervention and support.

Three courses are available at no cost to participants:

  1. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA)
  2. Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST)
  3. Suicide alertness for Everyone (safeTALK)

MHFA 2-day workshops teach simple, practical skills for helping a family member, friend, co-worker or other person who is experiencing a mental health problem such as depression, anxiety, psychosis and/or substance use problems.

ASIST 2-day workshops provide skills to intervene with someone having thoughts of suicide, working with them to create a safety plan and to help them feel less overwhelmed and suicidal.

safeTALK is a half-day workshop that prepares anyone to become more suicide-alert. safeTALK-trained helpers can help people to recognise the signs and take action by connecting veterans with life-saving intervention resources, such as caregivers trained in ASIST.

"We thank the RSL for working in partnership with us to help educate people on the myths and misunderstandings around mental illness, and to actively reduce stigma for veterans" Dr Hodson said.  

The free training opportunities are available to anyone seeking to help family, friends, co-workers or others in the veteran community.

'Open Arms' and Port Lincoln RSL organise courses to help veterans and their families.

Local veterans and their families will be able to receive support through upcoming courses which are set to take place at Port Lincoln RSL.
The team at 'Open Arms' and Port Lincoln RSL have organised a two-day course in September labelled Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), focusing on identification and skills.

Port Lincoln RSL President Gary Clough said people will learn how to identify and assist if and when someone is showing signs of suicidal tendencies, and how to assist in that situation to ensure the person is kept safe and can seek help.
Mr Clough said this course was supposed to take place in earlier in the year, however, it was pushed back to September because of issues related to COVID-19.

"We are trying to get a further two mental health courses up and running that will further provide participants the skills and knowledge required to help others in crisis." Mr Clough said.

"Then there are other simple fundamentals like learning about technology and a half day seminar on how to improve your sleeping patterns.
"If you lose your sleep pattern and you do not get enough sleep, your brain does not recover - leading to a host of symptoms that can impact on ones mental health."

Mr Clough said there were a lot of areas the branch is trying to make more viable for the veterans and their families
"We do not just look after the veteran we will look after the wife and the children as well."
Mr Clough said people can come and see the volunteers if they have any issues, and the team keep everything confidential.
"We want to get back to being there for the veterans and their families but also for the general community because we are the returned and services league," Mr Clough said.

"You do not have to be an ex-serving member to be here - whether you are Country Fire Service or Police, all of the service areas can come here for membership."
Mr Clough said people have the option to be a social, affiliate or service member.

Mr Clough said the branch was a good place to catch up with people and socialise with each other for a game of pool or a beverage.
Mr Clough said the RSL had launched a new website that will work to keep its members up to date with its plans and events.
"Whatever profits we make go towards programs or maintaining the building, as well as our Garden of Remembrance," Mr Clough said.
Mr Clough said Port Lincoln RSL were continuing to make improvements to its branch after renovating its bar.
He said volunteers next plans were to install LED lights, incorporate a new ceiling and install sliding doors.
"That will ensure that the RSL is more accessible for people in wheel chairs," Mr Clough said.
Mr Clough said the volunteers' goal was to make the branch more accessible and user friendly as well as maintain the presence of an RSL.

He said if local veterans wanted to get involved in the building and renovations, the branch would offer them the work.
"You have got to get the tenders first before you go for the grants and then do all your own fundraising once you know where you stand with grants," Mr Clough said.
"Australian Partners of Defence offer discounts to serving members and ex serving members and it is run predominately on veterans businesses as well...if you are a local veteran that owns their own business, we will lean in favour towards that but the pricing still has to be equitable.

"Where we can we will support the veterans in the area especially our members here and then after that the local communities first."

SA Psychiatrists and Psychologists who accept DVA patients
Anxiety Disorders and Trauma Clinic – Adelaide
Fiona Stevens – Adelaide
Simon Canny – Norwood
Jo-Anne Hamilton – Norwood
Amanda Burlock – Norwood
Paul Kemp – Kensington
Reg Nixon – Flinders University
Marja Elizabeth – Flinders University
Denise Keenan – Unley
Jane Pool (Social Worker/Councellor) – Mt Barker
Greg Gardner – Tea Tree Gully
Claire Logan – Tea Tree Gully

Dr Marty Ewer – Norwood
Dr Dan Short – Adelaide
Dr Nick Ford – Trinity Gardens
Dr Andrew Harvey – Unley
Dr Roman Onilov – Norwood
Dr Barry Rowe – Hawthorn

View our list of Veteran Advocacy centres
Click here to download.

Related Services

Port Lincoln RSL Club
(08) 8682 3594
14 Hallett Pl, Port Lincoln SA 5606