Using sport to inspire our service men and women
The highly successful Invictus Pathways Program (IPP) has received a $250,000 funding boost to continue to inspire and support our former and current ADF members and first responders.
Run by the University of South Australia, the program uses sport and exercise to promote recovery and wellbeing in service men and women who have physical, emotional and/or psychological conditions often suﬀered as a result of traumatic events.
Military and Emergency Services Health Australia (MESHA), part of The Hospital Research Foundation Group, is providing the $250,000 to further enhance the program and find new ways for participants to feel more socially connected, increase their physical activity, find a sense of purpose and improve mental health.
The IPP program can also help prepare athletes for the Invictus Games, an international sporting event inspired by patron Prince Harry to help wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women, both serving and veterans. Following COVID-19 delays, the next Invictus Games are scheduled to take place in The Hague, Netherlands, in 2022.
The grant will go towards:
- Research and analysis of adapted sport and exercise benefits for veteran and first responder populations
- Program development and connectedness with other community programs, specifically targeting community-adapted sports and physical activity
- Training and exercise programs to optimise the learning experience for students working with veterans and first responders who may present with both visible and invisible wounds.
MESHA’s Executive Director Dr Miranda Van Hooff said the grant would provide important support for military members and emergency service personnel who may be struggling with mental scars.
“This program has already helped almost 200 service men and women and provided almost 3000 hours of student clinical placements over the past few years, and we’re thrilled to continue our partnership with UniSA to support this world-class initiative,” Dr Van Hooff said.
“Making an immediate and long-term impact on the mental health and wellbeing of our military members and emergency service personnel is at the core of MESHA and we are proud to be contributing to their recovery through the Invictus Pathways Program.”
Xavier Munro Green, who served in the Armoured Corps for more than eight years and was deployed to Iraq in 2016, was discharged from service following a debilitating back injury. He started playing wheelchair basketball and wheelchair AFL with the IPP, which has supported his journey to better mental and physical health.
“It’s great having a physical outlet, with other veterans in similar situations to me,” Xavier said.
“Obviously with the state of my back, it’s something I can’t do anymore – but I have a competitive streak that makes me want to still have a crack at sport.
“While I was at the soldier recovery centre, the IPP would come to play wheelchair basketball with us. If it wasn’t for IPP, I probably wouldn’t be getting the opportunity to play sport again.”
Danielle Hale, who served across the Army Reserve and Royal Australian Navy, has had a similar experience with major depression and post-traumatic stress from spinal injuries and chronic pain. For Danielle, playing sport was not just about the physical and social benefits.
“I missed playing sport, for both the physical and social side of it but most of all, I just wanted to feel as though I was working toward achieving something,” Danielle said
“I was hesitant at first to go and meet people I didn’t know – and it was a weird feeling to get into a wheelchair to play basketball – but once I got the hang of it, I was hooked.
“The Invictus Pathway Program provides a way to reconnect with people that have similar experiences and problems to what I have. I don’t have to explain anything to them.”
More information about the IPP is available at unisa.edu.au/connect/Community-Engagement/invictus and details on the 2022 Invictus Games can be found here.