Veteran Cameron Grant has discovered a new purpose in life, transiting out of the Army and is now focusing on mental health support for his fellow veterans.
Cameron is thrilled to be part of Military and Emergency Service Health Australia’s (MESHA) Student Placement and Internship Program and hopes his research project will help our military members who are facing mental health challenges.
The Student Program has been developed and led by Senior Researcher Holley Bowen-Salter, to provide an industry based training program for research students from Undergraduate to PhD level, to support their content knowledge of the military, emergency services and serving families area and also refine their research skills.
After joining the Army as a 19-year-old, Cameron spent three years in the 5th Royal Australian Regiment, but an injury restricted him from combat, so he re-trained to be a supply coordinator in 1st Combat Service Support Battalion, which brought him back to his hometown of Adelaide, for another three years, where he made some amazing friends.
Cameron’s life changed when his close friend and fellow soldier, whom he worked alongside, suddenly died by suicide, sparking a new career direction to help fellow soldiers.
“My friends and I were quite close, so when one of them died by suicide, it left us shocked,” Cameron said.
“I didn’t expect it and wasn’t aware he was even struggling. It was not okay.”
After his friend’s suicide, mounting physical injuries and deteriorating mental health, Cameron decided to take a different pathway. With the Army’s support, he medically discharged.
“My unit in the Army was fantastic in supporting me to pursue higher education while I discharged, which was fantastic for my mental health. I completed the Flinders University Foundation Studies program, which allowed me to begin my Psychology degree immediately post discharge,” Cameron said.
“Transitioning from the Army to University was difficult, but thankfully I connected with fellow veterans through Flinders University’s Australian Veteran Student Association, who supported me.”
Cameron completed his degree in Psychology (honours) and is currently undertaking a Doctor of Philosophy (Psychology), focusing on how military identity affects help-seeking behaviour in veterans with mental health concerns.
“When someone medically discharges, they aren’t around their people anymore, and they lose their military identity, which can create mental health challenges,” Cameron said.
“My research will be looking at what enables and motivates veterans to seek help when they have mental health concerns. The question is what flips the switch from inaction or avoidance of help-seeking to active help-seeking.”
“I hope to build a model that can explain help-seeking behaviours of veterans. Once we know what factors cause help-seeking behaviour, we can create practical interventions to increase help-seeking.”
Cameron is conducting his research at Flinders University in partnership with the Military and Emergency Services Health Australia (MESHA), through its student placement program, which he says has been very positive.
“Working with the MESHA team and having Dr Miranda Van Hooff co-supervising has been fantastic. Their expertise in veteran research and industry knowledge has been invaluable and they are incredibly supportive of me and my research.”
Throughout his undergraduate degree Cameron volunteered at Lifeline Adelaide before gaining employment as a Mental Health Peer Worker. Cameron worked as a peer worker and acting team leader at the Lived Experience Telephone Support Service, mentoring peer workers, assessing client needs and helping to develop training resources. Most recently, Cameron has worked with NEAMI National as a peer support worker at the Walk-in After-Hours Mental Health Service.
He was also the recipient of the 2019 Australian Mental Health Commission Leaders Fellowship, where he built on his knowledge and leadership skills in the mental health sector.
“There’s still stigma surrounding seeking help and admitting you have a mental health concern. I’m determined to help break that down, raise awareness about veteran suicide and support veterans transitioning to their next chapter.”