There is ongoing concern within the Australian Defence Force and the wider Australian community about suicide in serving and ex-serving ADF personnel. Recent government inquiries have highlighted the need to improve the integration of service responses to meet the health and wellbeing needs of serving and ex-serving ADF personnel (JSCFADT 2015).
Minister for Veterans' Affairs Darren Chester said the latest findings show those who choose to serve in the ADF are, on average, healthier than the general community. However, the findings also highlight the need to support the mental health of veterans, particularly those under 30.
The need to invest in prevention and early intervention strategies to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for these groups has also been highlighted. The government has introduced further suicide prevention and mental health support services for serving and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families.
Eligible transitioning ADF members now automatically receive a DVA Health Card – Specific Conditions (White Card), which can be used to access treatment for any mental health condition, regardless of whether or not it is related to their service.
"We are committed to supporting the physical and mental health of veterans and these reports provide a valuable contribution to our understanding of veterans’ health. Our government provides more than $11.2 billion each year to deliver services and programs to support 290,000 veterans and their families, with $200 million spent on mental health alone," Minister Chester said.
Current and former ADF members transitioning to civilian life also have access to a comprehensive one-off health assessment with their general practitioner.
Mental health treatment provided through a White Card can include: consultations with a GP, psychiatrist, psychologist, mental health social worker or mental health occupational therapist; specialist PTSD programs; subsidised pharmaceuticals required to treat a condition; and hospital treatment. Health assessments can be accessed with a Medicare card.
Minister Chester said, "From 1 July 2019, all those leaving the ADF will be able to access an annual comprehensive health assessment by a GP for the first five years after they discharge. This is a $2.1 million commitment from government and will assist in the early detection and treatment of mental and physical health concerns during transition to civilian life, addressing a high-risk period for the emergence of mental health conditions and suicide."
Eligible transitioning ADF members will receive their White Cards in the mail. The full report is available here.