A resilient family

Army soldier looking out to sea

Time to read: 3 minutes

John, a 37-year-old Infantry Sergeant in the Australian Regular Army, enlisted 17 years ago. He and his wife, Jenny have two children, Sally (15) and Jack (11). 

John had been posted to various locations around Australia and was always accompanied by his family. Shortly after posting into a Townsville based Regiment, John was deployed overseas for six months. Although he enjoyed putting his training into practice, he was exposed to a range of traumatic events and sustained a minor back injury. Despite this, communication between John and the family was kept relatively upbeat and focused on all that was going well, including the countdown until the family would be reunited. Neither John nor Jenny wanted to cause stress to the other as both prided themselves on their resilience and ‘can do’ attitude.

During the deployment, Jenny was initially managing well but after being retrenched from her job, she found she wasn’t sleeping well, and was drinking more alcohol than usual. She’d also withdrawn from social activities and exercise.  Sally’s behaviour also changed. She was irritable, sometimes tearful, less talkative, and retreated to her bedroom.  Jack, who had struggled to make friends at his new school, was consistently complaining about feeling unwell to avoid going to school. He also seemed unhappy or withdrawn when talking with John by phone.

When the family reunited, the previous supportive, fun and relaxed family dynamics appeared to have been replaced with tension and disconnection.

A close family friend suggested that John and Jenny contact Open Arms. After an intake assessment was completed with each family member, they were assigned to a skilled counsellor. Following a comprehensive assessment of their individual issues, goals were set and treatment plans were put in place. Here’s a summary of the support they received from Open Arms.

John attended the ‘Recovery from Trauma’ and ‘Doing Anger Differently’ group programs. He also worked with his usual medical officer to manage his lower back pain and found great benefit in the Open Arms ‘Managing your Pain’ group.  He also found it helpful to connect with a peer support worker who shared strategies and insights about what helped him to manage similar mental health struggles related to military experiences.

Jenny worked with her counsellor on a range of focused psychological strategies and attended the ‘Sleeping Better’ program. She reduced her alcohol intake and returned to a healthier, more social lifestyle. She and John attended couple counselling and noticed an improvement in their communication and also their intimacy. 

Judy was able to share her learnings from the ‘Engaging Adolescents’ workshop with John and both parents noticed Sally’s responses improving.  Sally enjoyed working with her counsellor and completing the skills training homework activities she was assigned to help her improve her self-esteem and assertiveness.  And, through counselling it was revealed that Jack was worried about his father being killed overseas and having to ‘step up’ to provide support to his mother. Using a systemic practice model, the family learned practical problem-solving skills and strategies to assist Jack manage his fears and connect with school based supports. 

Open Arms counselling assisted John and his family deal with issues related to his military service, and ultimately assisted the family to become a stronger, more resilient family system.

If you or someone you know needs support call us on 1800 011 046.