During your transition to civilian life, it as much of a change for you as it is for your ADF member. Transition may mean change which may impact your family. The below may help you be aware of any issues that could arise for you and your family during transition, with ways to help.
Communication breakdown. It is integral to maintain strong communication during your transition, as breakdowns in communication can have significant adverse long-term effects.
Sense of loss. When a partner transitions from the military, they can feel a sense of loss of their identity, and so can you. It can be quite challenging to readjust to your new roles in the civilian world.
A change in behaviour. Stress may naturally happen during times of transition and this can lead to significant or dramatic shifts in emotions, moods and consequential behaviour.
Talk to each other and talk others if you feel like you need help. Open communication as a family can help build strong foundations as you begin and make your way through the transition process.
Build your social network. Consider expanding your social network through engaging in community activities or taking up a new hobby. Exploring new activities and making new connections can aid the transition process for you and your loved one.
Find a mentor. It could be helpful to find someone you respect to talk to for advice about your transition. This could be someone who has already gone through it themselves or simply someone who you find has valuable experience that you could draw upon.
Look after your health. One of the most important things you can do as a family is to look after your physical and mental health. The impact of transition can create both physical and mental issues and it is important to be conscious of your health as much as your loved ones health.
If you are in the position where you are concerned about someone, there are a range of ways you could help them:
Reach out to them and ask if they are OK. Choose an appropriate time and location to have this conversation, considering whether they are comfortable in this environment (e.g. on a walk, in their own home with no distractions). RUOK day website has some good tips.
Start the conversation by asking how they are and empathising with them. It's crucial that you actively listen and show the individual your full attention.
Consider mentioning your concerns to them. You can mentioning that you have noticed something that's affecting them or you could talk about how you know that transition is a significant experience.
Be prepared for the conversation to not go as planned. These types of conversations can be uncomfortable and they may not be prepared to talk about it. Before you hold the conversation, it may be useful to consider how the individual may react, so you are adequately prepared. This is why it is crucial to select a positive and safe environment to hold the conversation.
Reiterate that help is out there - it's OK to talk to yourself or to seek other support services that are available to them.
For more information about your mental health, or advice for partners and family members, contact the Defence Family Helpline on 1800 624 6008
Open Arms provides counselling and support services to Australia's military community. If you have served one day of continuous full-time service in the ADF you can call them for support. They also support families, reservists and some peacekeepers. Call Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling on 1800 011 046 for free, confidential counselling and group programs to support mental health and wellbeing.
Beyond Blue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live. Beyond Blue is independent from Defence and can support you and your family if you're experiencing anxiety, depression, or suicide risk.
Alternatively, the All-hours Support Line is a confidential telephone service for you and your family. A qualified mental health professional will answer and direct you to a service which suits your needs. Call them on 1800 628 036.