Strong social connections aid transition30 September 2019
Have you considered how important friends and family are in helping you live a happy and fulfilled life?
Various studies have indicated that social connection can strengthen your immune system, improve your mental health and maybe even help you live longer. And it’s especially important for those transitioning from Defence to civilian life.
Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation (GMRF) Associate Director of Mental Health Research and leader of the Veteran Reintegration Study Dr Madeline Romaniuk says that Defence members often feel a profound sense of loss when they leave service but this may be mitigated by making connections to the civilian community.
“Our research demonstrated that those who were involved with civilian community groups or stayed close with their civilian friends while in Defence, found the transition out a lot easier as they weren’t losing their entire community following separation – they had always maintained connections, and a life outside of the military,” says Dr Madeline Romaniuk from GMRF.
MAKING NEW FRIENDS AND RECONNECTING WITH OLD ONES
If you’re in the process of leaving Defence, consider reaching out to old friends on social media, joining a local civilian sporting group like a footy club or cycling group, or perhaps going along to your local parkrun.
“For those less able to be physically active, there are special interest groups throughout Australia like gardening clubs, art, singing or film and TV groups or even Men’s Shed groups for metalwork, woodwork or DYI projects,” Dr Romaniuk says.
“The evidence is clear that social support and connection protects against mental health and reintegration difficulties.”
There are also plenty of events for veterans and their families on our What’s On pages, including sporting activities, adventure challenges, coffee catch-ups, family fun days and reunions.
SOCIAL NETWORKS INSPIRE GROWTH
Veteran Daniel Smith says developing and maintaining social networks aids personal growth and development.
“It's definitely a difficult thing to re-enter [the civilian world] and find friends outside of the military because you know people that you serve with so well,” Daniel says.
“But I think it's really important that we meet new people and grow in friendships and join groups and organizations that can have a community to bring together. I think it's really important to our development.”
CHECK OUT YOUR LOCAL SUB BRANCH
An RSL Queensland survey of our Defence family also showed that our members feel more strongly connected to their local community. Our Sub Branches offer a range of social activities and opportunities for you to give back to the Defence family – so why not consider joining your local Sub Branch and making some new mates?