Vet­er­ans left in limbo

SUP­PORT SER­VICE LOSES TENANCY

Midland Reporter - - Front Page - FIRST RE­PORTED AT Com­mu­ni­tynews .com.au Sarah Brookes

A ONE-OF-A-KIND ser­vice in For­rest­field help­ing vet­er­ans bat­tling post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der and sub­stance abuse is clos­ing its doors fol­low­ing the re­de­vel­op­ment of For­rest­field Fo­rum.

Vet­eran ad­vo­cate Lester Lea­man, who served in the Royal Aus­tralian Air Force in Viet­nam, said the Men’s Health Peer Ed­u­ca­tion (MHPE) pro­gram was es­tab­lished by the Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs in 1999 af­ter a Viet­nam Vet­er­ans’ Health Study re­vealed a higher rate of health is­sues amongst vet­er­ans.

“The ser­vice en­cour­ages mem­bers to share the re­spon­si­bil­ity for man­ag­ing their own health and well­be­ing,” he said.

“We’ve been ex­tremely lucky to have been op­er­at­ing from the For­rest­field shop for six years with a dedicated group of exser­vice vol­un­teers.

“But we al­ways knew we were on bor­rowed time and when the Hawai­ian Group pur­chased the For­rest­field Fo­rum, we knew if some­one came along, we’d have to va­cate.”

In a media state­ment, Hawai­ian said it had sup­ported the MHPE pro­gram for more than two years by pro­vid­ing the char­ity a va­cant tenancy at its For­rest­field cen­tre free of charge.

“This sup­port has en­abled MHPE to con­nect with the lo­cal com­mu­nity and raise aware­ness of the im­por­tant work the or­gan­i­sa­tion does to sup­port the men­tal health and well­be­ing for Aus­tralian vet­er­ans,” the state­ment said.

“As a re­sult of the re­de­vel­op­ment of For­rest­field, there are no longer any va­cant ten­an­cies. But Hawai­ian re­mains com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing MHPE and has of­fered them a free pop-up space at For­rest­field and other avail­able ten­an­cies at Hawai­ian’s eight other shop­ping cen­tres.”

Mr Lea­man said Hawai­ian Group had been very ac­com­mo­dat­ing.

“How­ever, the prob­lem with pop-up shops is when we get some­one com­ing in who is in cri­sis, it is very dif­fi­cult to talk to them in the mid­dle of a busy shop­ping cen­tre,” he said.

“At the mo­ment we are pack­ing ev­ery­thing up while we re­assess our sit­u­a­tion.

“We are com­fort­able in this area and we feel it is an area that needs to be ser­viced.

“We will keep look­ing for a new space and I am al­ways op­ti­mistic some­one will come for­ward with an of­fer.”

Mr Lea­man said the shop’s clo­sure came at a time when de­mand for help by ex-ser­vice peo­ple was high.

“This is the only shop of its kind in Aus­tralia and we re­ally blazed the trail open­ing a shop front,” he said.

“We have helped hun­dreds of peo­ple over the years and the sta­tis­tics we have been keep­ing prove it has been a very worth­while ser­vice.

“The shop clos­ing is go­ing to cause some prob­lems. We just won’t be around to pick up the peo­ple who have said ‘I must send my hus­band down there’.”

Last year, a Se­nate inquiry into the men­tal health of ADF mem­bers and vet­er­ans found nearly one in four re­turned sol­diers had ex­pe­ri­enced a men­tal dis­or­der in the past 12 months and the rate of sui­cide was dou­ble that of the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion.

Call the Vet­er­ans and Vet­er­ans Fam­i­lies Coun­selling Ser­vice on 1800 011 046 for 24/7 free and con­fi­den­tial Aus­tralia-wide coun­selling and sup­port for vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies.

Pic­ture: David Baylis www.com­mu­ni­typix.com.au d468238

Vol­un­teers Lester Lea­man with Phil Lear and Deb­bie Stirk at the Vet­er­ans' Com­mu­nity Health Cen­tre at For­rest­field Fo­rum.

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