Today, September 10, we mark World Suicide Prevention Day and R U OK? Day — days that remind us the difference each and every one of us can make in someone’s life.

The power of individuals to make a difference to someone’s mental health should not be underestimated and looking out for your mates who may be experiencing mental health challenges is something we can all do.

And while service in the Australian Defence Force is an overwhelmingly positive and rewarding experience, our personnel can also experience mental health challenges.

A text, phone call or a private message on social media asking ‘are you ok?’ can make a world of difference to someone who is struggling.

If the answer is ‘no, I’m not’ that’s nothing to be scared of — you don’t need all the answers and you can’t fix everything, you just need to listen.

From there, you can encourage action. Start by asking how they would like to be supported and work through possible management strategies with them, which might include reaching out for professional help.

My message to those current and former ADF personnel who may be struggling is help is available. Please speak up and seek support, do not suffer in silence.

If you know of a veteran, or anyone, who may be struggling, please reach out to them. Look out for your mates – the cost is too high if we don’t.

All current and former ADF personnel and their families have access to free and confidential counselling and support through Open Arms — Veterans and Families Counselling. This life-saving support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 1800 011 046.

Anyone with a single day of service in the ADF can access free mental health care, for life, through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Please use this support.

Darren Chester, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Minister for Defence Personnel

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