Building Community with Veterans

Yesterday I read, with some sadness, about the high rate of suicide and imprisonment among members of the veteran community.

While serving suicide rates for veterans are 48 % lower than for non military people. But 18% higher for veterans. I would assume the rates for women would be similar.

Veterans are also incarcerated twice as often as members of the general community. (https://www.sbs.com.au/news/insight/life-just-went-to-crap-why-army-veterans-are-twice-as-likely-to-end-up-in-prison).

These figures reflect the challenges facing both veterans and the society they return to. It is reasonably obvious that greater support is needed to help in transitioning from military life to civilian life. From a life of regulation and camaraderie to a comparably unregulated world outside the military.

For many the issues of transitioning to civilian life are complex with no simple answers. Even those who do not resort to criminal behaviour sometimes seek other careers that promise similar camaraderie. This could be other militaristic organisations or working in team environments in isolated locations such as mining. But the level of camaraderie is not the same.

Although, this is a complex issue part of the transition from military life to civilian life requires support in building strong community. This would require working closely with the veteran and their families to make the adjustment less difficult.

I would suggest that this would include the use of Asset Based Community Development strategies to identify the gifts, talents and assets of the veteran and their family and working with them to match these with others in their community. This would include some community building in their local neighbourhood to build social connection between the veteran, their family and others who live nearby. Basically making Neighbour Day to be everyday. Connecting the veteran to other veterans in life affirming groups would assist in this adjustment. For example, the Patriots Motorcycle club is an organisation for veterans who love motorcycles and provides a level of social contact and support.

Of course, community building is only one component of a successful move to civilian life. Some will require other supports such as psychological or medical support to assist in moving back into society. But the building of strong, supportive community is essential.

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