Sunday, May 1, 2016

Australia "Overwatch" Tracking Social Media to Save Veterans

'Overwatch' group prevents veteran suicides by monitoring social media, sending in the troops
ABC Australia
By Louise Merrillees
Posted Fri April 29, 2016

"I've had my bad moments when I've been pretty low, and they've sent vets to come and find me. From what I can see, they've prevented an awful lot of suicides from happening."

PHOTO: Ex-serviceman Trevor Dineen receives support from veterans at his local RSL. (ABC News: Louise Merrillees)
Trevor Dineen, a 31-year-old ex-serviceman, is talking about Overwatch Australia, a national organisation that intervenes when defence force veterans show mental health warning signs.

Overwatch, a military term that means one unit providing cover or support to another unit, has more than 4,500 volunteers Australia-wide, who have served with the Australia Defence Force.

The organisation describes itself as a "peer-to-peer, boots-on-the-ground, rapid-response organisation formed to assist former ADF members who are at risk or in crisis".

Robert Harris is the national president of Overwatch, while Marc Kirwin is the national coordinator. Both of them served in the Army.

Mr Harris said Overwatch was all about a quick response when warning signs became obvious.

"Once we have someone's address, we can put boots on the ground in 30 minutes," he said.

Overwatch focusing on Rwandan and Somali vets

Mr Kwinan said Overwatch was focusing on veterans from the Rwandan and Somali peacekeeping and humanitarian missions.

"Those guys are wracked with guilt. The rules of engagement were totally different - they couldn't engage unless they were in direct harm's way or fired upon.

"They saw women and children slaughtered in front of them. And the militia are standing there looking at them smiling and knowing they couldn't do anything about it.
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