The recent Veteran Support Services Expo on the Gold Coast showcased just what sort of services are on offer for veterans living in the area.
Eighteen businesses that either offered services for veterans, or were run by veterans, took part in the expo at the Currumbin RSL.
REDSIX was one of the businesses that had a stall at the expo.
REDSIX is an app with the primary purpose of lowering the growing suicide rate among returned service men and women, by offering a virtual community that is accessible 24 hours a day, no matter where users are located, using GPS technology.
The app also enables veterans to rate their mental state each day and receive a response from fellow servicepeople in the greater veteran community.
REDSIX CEO Michael Handley organised the Veteran Support Services Expo and said it was important veterans with mental health issues knew what was available to them in their community.
“A lot of the time you withdraw, you isolate yourself when you’re dealing with mental illness,” Mr Handley said.
“With technology these days you can do everything from home, but the good thing about this event is that it gets people outdoors, meeting people and networking,” he said.
Black Dog Brotherhood was one of the other businesses that took part in the expo.
Black Dog Brotherhood is an online fitness and nutrition service that works with men, including veterans, who experience depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Black Dog Brotherhood CEO and founder Neil Geddes said nutrition and fitness was directly related to mental health and wellbeing.
“The foods you eat play a massive role in the emotions you feel,” he said.
Mr Geddes said Black Dog Brotherhood was about more than just educating people, it was also a community where men could talk.
“Men don’t talk about their feelings or emotions,” he said.
“By having an online community of men who are all in the same boat, we reiterate everyone in there is battling one mental health condition or another.”
“The community is what keeps it going, it created that accountability for guys to keep training and to keep going with their nutrition.”
“There’s always someone there for the guys when they’re hurting,” Mr Geddes said.
Another veteran support business that took part in the expo was Team Rubicon Australia.
Team Rubicon responds nationally and internationally to natural disasters and sends out teams to assist in the recovery process.
Originally founded in America by veterans, Team Rubicon is relatively new to Australia having only been in the country for two and a half years.
Veterans make up 75 per cent of the team and they’re all volunteers.
Team Rubicon Australia’s Brisbane disaster response team manager, Chris Perrin, said the business had continued on with its ethos in providing a community for veterans.
“It provides a sense of purpose and belonging that they don’t have when they get out of the military,” Mr Perrin said.
Young Veteran Support Services, another service present at the expo, provides education and social opportunities, as well as employment, for younger veterans.
Young Veteran Support Services coordinator Naomi Wyatt said it was important for veterans to come out and socialise people in the community.
“For most of these men and women, it’s not just a job [the military], it’s a lifestyle,” Ms Wyatt said.
“When they’re transitioning back into the community, they really miss that comradery, that defence family,” she said.
“It’s really more about providing a platform for the defence family to come together.”
Café Purple owner and veteran Danie Costolloe-Ross also set up a stall at the expo, displaying a few of the treats sold at her café.
Ms Costolloe-Ross said it was important for veterans to know about the available services to welcome them into the community.
“So many people are lost, and spend years being lost,” she said.
“They need veteran services to put them together.”
Ms Costolloe-Ross was a cook in the military for 11 years and has continued her passion for cooking ever since.
She said she had been out of the military for 24 years and had only reconnected with the veteran community four years ago.
Ms Costolloe-Ross said she “wanted to give people a safe space to come and relax where you can have good coffee and food”.
“People can come and have a chat if they felt the need with someone who sort of got them,” she said.
Veteran-owned business, Australia Warfighter Coffee (AWC), also had a stall at the expo.
AWC is a coffee line with a café in Townsville dedicated to bringing coffee to veterans and first responders.
The veteran-owned business donates profits towards veteran services such as REDSIX and Young Veterans, as well as to first responder emergency services.
AWC director Ian Rawson said the business provided people with a means of relaxing, by offering a good cup of coffee, both at events and at their café, and giving people the opportunity to talk about any issues they might have.
“A good cup of coffee will make you feel relaxed for a long time,” he said.
Operation PTSD Support Inc. also showcased its services at The Veteran Support Services Expo, which are designed to support the families and partners of veterans with illness and injury.
Operation PTSD Support Inc. founder and president Donna Reggett said one of the organisation’s services was running social inclusion events to help combat isolation amongst the partners and family of PTSD sufferers, and to help them build their own support network.
Ms Reggett said a lot of people outside of the veteran community didn’t understand the challenges the families and partners of service people with mental health issues faced.
“People don’t know how to deal with it, so they stop dealing with it and stop visiting,” she said.
“Or you might find that because of that illness you have to cancel all the time, so people stop inviting you.”
“If you can understand, you might be able to help save that relationship and they won’t feel so alone.”