Effects of military-relatated stress in the civilian work environment

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How much can war or peacekeeping-related stress affect the veteran at work?

After war or peacekeeping service, many veterans manage very well within the work environment. As age and health problems arise they are faced with the same challenges as the rest of the community such as continuing to work, facing redundancy or increasing work demands.

For those veterans suffering war or peacekeeping related stress, the quality of their work and their ability to apply themselves may be significantly affected by their condition. They may have difficulty coping with work pressures, real or perceived. They may get easily frustrated with the actions of others, and their feelings about work problems often make the situation worse.

When such stress is severe, veterans may experience poor relationships with work colleagues and suffer mood swings that can result in variable work quality. They often set themselves high expectations that become a source of anxiety or depression when they fail to achieve their goals. Veterans may adopt either a workaholic or 'keep out of sight and hide away' work pattern.

Do veterans easily deal with these difficulties?

Some veterans and ex-military personnel have had many job changes, preferring to leave a job rather than trying to deal with difficulties. These veterans may complain that civilians have no idea about how to work in an organised and conscientious manner compared to the military way. They also experience frustration and may have little respect for superiors, or tolerance for inefficiency in others. Some may choose employment (e.g. police or emergency services) where structures, order and discipline are similar to that within the military. Some choose to work alone to avoid conflict and frustration.

Can veterans suffering from war-related or similar stress continue to work?

In many instances, veterans can and do continue to work successfully; however, the effects of trauma may result in some veterans having to decide whether or not they can continue working. This difficult decision should be made by weighing the personal cost of remaining in the workforce against the benefits to be gained by trying to continue at work.

Most veterans would prefer to remain in employment because it is often important for their future psychological and financial well being and that of their families. Work also gives purpose and direction that is vital in reducing the intrusiveness of war or similar stress.

However, some veterans have little choice regarding whether they remain at work, and must take the least preferred option of ceasing work for health reasons.

Can early intervention help me?

Counselling through the VVCS – Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service may help with work performance and enhance the possibility of remaining at work and maintaining quality of life.

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) has a Veterans Vocational Rehabilitation Scheme (VVRS). VVRS may help to assess alternative employment options and training needs that can lead to gainful employment. You can self-refer or be referred to the VVRS in your State.

What if I am unable to continue to work?

Leaving the workforce for whatever reason can be quite an adjustment, particularly if you have not thought about what to do in your retirement or how you will spend your time. In addition, your partner and family will have to make adjustments if you are going to be at home more often.

Counselling may help you to discuss your options as well as assist in making adjustments to your lifestyle. Some VVCS centres offer group programs to address the issue of early retirement. You may need to seek advice about financial management as well as your entitlement to DVA benefits.

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