Today the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released three independent reports into the health and wellbeing of serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel:
- The National suicide monitoring of serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force personnel: 2019 update
- Use of homelessness services by contemporary ex-serving ADF members: 2011-17
- Medications dispensed to contemporary ex-serving Australian Defence Force members 2017-18.
These reports were commissioned by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) to gain a better understanding of some of the challenges faced by the serving and ex-serving community.
While the three reports released are on separate issues, the update on suicide monitoring of serving and ex-serving personnel for 2017 shows 42 current and former ADF personnel took their lives that year.
These deaths are tragic and the only acceptable number is zero.
Over consecutive years, we’ve been delivering positive changes to the veterans’ support system focusing on mental health and wellbeing, from introducing free mental health care for anyone with one day’s service for any mental health condition, regardless of if it is service-related, to providing immediate payments to veterans who have a compensation claim for a mental health condition being assessed by DVA, and providing psychiatric assistance dogs to veterans to help them manage their post-traumatic stress disorder.
Importantly, we are changing the transition process to ensure anyone leaving the ADF has access to the support they need, including additional resources which are focused on personnel who are discharging for medical or administrative reasons.
We invest more than $11.5 billion a year to support our veterans and their families, including more than $230 million a year on veteran mental health – for which funding is uncapped and driven by demand.
Today, I am meeting with my Ministerial colleagues from the states and territories to consult with them on the new Veterans’ Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy and Action Plan, and to discuss how we can work together on this important issue.
Since taking over the portfolio in March 2018, veteran mental health and improving the Departments of Defence and Veterans’ Affairs to put veterans and their families first has been my absolute priority.
There are improvements being made, to services, support, transition and employment. But I know more can be done to ensure we are supporting our veterans and their families now and into the future.
The findings from these reports help us better target our efforts to those most at risk as well as assist in shaping future programs and services offered by Defence and DVA to support veterans and their families.
Mental health and suicide prevention is everyone’s business. It is an issue that affects everyone in the community, and as a community we should all be focused on doing all we can. Check in on a mate, ask them if they are ok, have a conversation and help them get the support they need. Help is available.
I understand the content of these reports may cause distress to some in the ex-service community, and I would encourage any veteran or their families who do need additional support to contact Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling. They can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 1800 011 046.
The reports are available at Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.