Former soldier takes on mental health

A Flinders student and former Australian soldier with a passion for helping the community tackle mental health issues, is the recipient of a 2019 Australian Mental Health Commission Leaders Fellowship.

Third year psychology honours student Cameron Grant wants to use his degree to reduce suicide by improving community mental health literacy, wellbeing and capability.

With the suicide risk among former Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel doubling according to a recent report commissioned by the federal government, Mr Grant says more initiatives can help address the challenge of mental health illnesses.

“I’m deeply passionate about about suicide prevention and dismantling stigma surrounding mental illness,” he says.

The fellowship is the first program of its kind in Australia, designed to meet the needs of emerging leaders with a passion and commitment to mental health.

“It’s an opportunity to equip myself with the knowledge, skills and tools to lead and empower people in the community to develop capabilities that allow them to take charge of their mental health.

“It will also prepare me to identify ways to make a real difference in the sector going forward with my career.”

Mr Grant spent six years in the army; three in 5th Royal Australian Regiment, then three years in 1st Combat Service Support Battalion, before being medically discharged because of a number of injuries sustained during service.

While serving, the suicide of a fellow soldier and close friend ignited a passion for a new career in mental health. With army support, Mr Grant joined the university’s innovative Foundation Studies program.

He is currently working as acting Team Leader at the Lived Experience Telephone Support Service, where he mentors peer workers, assesses client needs, drafts service procedures and develops training support resources from scratch.  He has also volunteered at Lifeline providing support to people in acute crisis situations.

Mr Grant will now take on a placement at the Mental Health Commission in Canberra as part of the fellowship, which begins in October.

“Most people will experience mental illness at some stage in their life. Not everyone has the mental-health literacy to talk about it or the knowledge of what supports are available. Although it’s slowly improving, stigma still surrounds mental illness and it’s a major barrier to people seeking support, especially men.”

“I’m thrilled to be part of the fellowship and to develop my leadership skills in the mental health sector. It’s my hope to become a clinical psychologist working in suicide prevention and in communities to increase mental health literacy and improve wellbeing.”

The fellowship consists of five components:

  • Residential learning and networking workshops delivered by a prestigious university.
  • One week of experiential learning in a workplace environment providing exposure to leadership roles in various work settings, and the opportunity to reflect on participants own leadership style.
  • Diagnostic and assessment tools measuring leadership style, strengths, and capabilities.
  • A 12-month mentoring program.
  • A collaborative group project conducted over approximately six months to assist participants to apply what they have learnt to practical and contemporary issues.

This week, 10 to 16 June, is Men’s Mental Health Week. The annual initiative seeks to increase the understanding of mental health issues among men in the community, and work to better prevent and treat mental health conditions.

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