In 2015, researchers from the Transition and Wellbeing Research Programme surveyed a number of current serving personnel and former ADF members about their use of technology and how they used it to support their mental health. Over 95 per cent of those surveyed indicated that they used the internet at least once every day, and one in four reported that they went online when going through a tough time.
Of the 24,932 people in the study who had transitioned from the ADF, 25 per cent reported using the internet to search for help, to obtain information, and to help manage their mental health issues. One in six of the current serving ADF personnel in the study reported using the internet in the same way. As well as being frequent users of the internet, over half of those surveyed said they used technology such as apps or wearable devices.
Benefits of using technology to support veteran mental health
Devices and technology are playing an increasingly important role as more and more veterans head online for both information and tools to help manage their mental health. Our smartphones are almost always on-hand, and this enables convenient access to support and information at a time that best suits the individual, and potentially when other sources of support are not available. Having easy access to evidence-based information and guidance allows many veterans to self-manage their mental health. It can also provide privacy and confidentiality, with less of a need to write down information or record their thoughts on paper.
However, one of the challenges can be figuring out which resources are best to use. It can be hard to know which apps and websites have a strong evidence base and are created by reputable organisations and research teams. In this article we share our list of recommended apps and website resources designed specifically for veterans.
Apps for veterans
There are a number of apps available to support the needs of veterans and the ex-service community. All can be downloaded free from the App Store and Google Play.
HigRes can help current and ex-serving personnel and their families to build their resilience and mental fitness. The app contains easy to use tools and a scheduler to help set goals and practise skills.
PTSD Coach has been designed to help veterans and those who have been exposed to trauma to manage their emotions when they are reminded of the traumatic event. The app also has information on evidence-based treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a tool for screening and tracking symptoms, a scheduler for managing appointments and activities, and direct links to support. Whilst the app can be used as a stand-alone resource, it is best used in conjunction with the support of a mental health clinician.
The Right Mix
This app has been designed for serving and ex-serving ADF personnel and veterans. It helps to manage alcohol consumption by tracking the number and types of drinks consumed, as well as how much money has been spent on alcohol. It can also calculate how much exercise is needed to burn off the kilojoules consumed.
This app has been designed for use with a mental health clinician to help people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts. It provides access to emergency support, self-help resources, and information to help recognise the early warning signs of suicide. Both the user and clinician versions of the app are available from the App Store and Google Play.
Website resources for veterans
In addition to apps, there are also a number of other resources available online.
This Open Arms website contains information on living well, the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions, and video resources for current and ex-serving ADF members and their families. The website also has a section for practitioners on assessment, treatment and referral options.
Head to Health
This website lists a range of online and phone-based mental health resources for veterans including help lines, websites, and links to apps. In addition to veteran-specific apps and websites, there are also other mental health related apps and websites that may be of assistance.
Using telehealth to support veteran mental health
In addition to using the internet to search for information and to support their wellbeing, veterans have also been using internet-based technology and telephone consultations to receive mental health support and interventions. Platforms such as COVIU and Zoom have enabled current serving ADF members and veterans to access ongoing support from their mental health treatment team. This has been particularly relevant during the recent COVID-19 health pandemic, where for periods of time, access to mental health treatment could only be provided by internet-based technology and telephone support.
While telehealth does not suit everyone, the benefits include reduced social isolation and convenience, particularly if the veteran and clinician are geographically separated. And, when face-to-face consultations are not an option, it also provides the ability to support ongoing mental health assessment and treatment. It can be a really useful way for connection and support to be maintained and to reduce real or imagined social isolation.
Are you a practitioner or an ex-service organisation working with veterans?
Phoenix Australia has a number of resources for ex-service organisations, professionals and practitioners working with veterans available in the Working with Veterans section of our website. A helpful resource is the Practitioner Toolkit, which filters resources and information by topic of interest.
Phoenix Australia also provides the DVA General Advice Line, which aims to provide advice to improve the quality of services delivered to veterans. This national service is freely available to practitioners and ex-service organisations who support veterans, and can provide advice on general veteran mental health resources, as well as information about the veteran experience, and available best practice treatments.
The DVA General Advice Line is staffed from 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday and is available by calling 1800 838 777. Please note that this is not a direct service for veterans or their families.