Defence Media – Defence mental health support and suicide prevention

14 Aug 2016

14 August 2016 | On the Record

Any death by suicide is tragic. Defence is committed to increasing our understanding of this issue so that we can continue to improve the support services available to our people.

Most importantly, we need to help those who are suffering to understand that support is available to them – they do not need to suffer alone.

Suicide remains one of the leading causes of death in Australia, and ADF personnel are not immune from this. The rate of suicide of those serving in the ADF is lower than the national average when matched for age and gender. Of course we must do more.

For this reason Defence is investing significantly in suicide prevention and mental health more broadly, with more than $180 million in funding allocated to a range of education and support programs for all Defence members since 2009.

As a result of this investment, and by working with DVA, significant enhancements have been made to the provision of mental health care for current and ex-serving personnel over the last few years. The extension of non-liability health care arrangements which cover current and ex-serving members for a range of mental health conditions without the need to establish a link to their service is one example of this progress.

Current programs which address various mental health issues and provide support to ADF members throughout their military careers, including when they have returned to civilian life, include:

ADF mental health and psychology services

establishment of regional mental health teams
implementation of the mental health integration project to ensure consistency and best practice
creation of the ADF Centre for Mental Health to provide clinical advice and specialist training
establishment of the Second Opinion Clinic to help treat members with complex mental health issues

Prevention initiatives

publication of the ADF Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy
establishment of the ADF Suicide Prevention Program to ensure a comprehensive approach across the organisation
establishment of the Keep Your Mates Safe peer support program
introduction of BattleSMART (a self management and resilience training program)
introduction of ADF operational-specific mental health screening
implementation of the Mental Health Screening Continuum Project to expand current screening framework

Awareness and education programs

dissemination of ADF mental health fact sheets
creation of the annual ADF Mental Health Day
establishment of ADF mental health awareness presentations and mandatory training for all members
creation of mental health first aid courses for members
establishment of the Army Industry Partnership Initiative
introduction of workshops to assist commanders to provide support to members
creation of the ADF alcohol, tobacco and other drugs awareness program
creation of web-based ADF Health and Wellbeing Portal which is available publicly
establishment of the Chief of Army Wounded Injured and Ill Digger Forum
development of mental health mobile applications
publication of the ADF Rehabilitation Member and Family Guide
publication of the ADF Health and Recovery Commanders’ Guide

Crisis support and recovery programs

establishment and promotion of mental health and crisis support help lines
establishment of the intervention Critical Incident Mental Health Support (CIMHS) process
establishment of RESET (a coach facilitated, skills based early intervention program)
creation of the Support to Wounded Injured or Ill Program
establishment of the Soldier Recovery Centres
creation of the Army Rehabilitation through Employment Initiative
establishment of the ADF Arts for Recovery, Resilience, Teamwork and Skills Program
establishment of the ADF Rehabilitation Program.

We need to recognise that mental health problems affect our entire society, and yet for each individual the circumstances of their situation are unique and deeply personal. What might help one person may not be successful for another; that is why there are a range of support services available.

The factors that lead a person to die by suicide are complex, which is why we need a mature discussion encompassing the entire community. Together we can continue to break down the stigma that, even today, our society attaches to mental health issues so that everybody feels they are able to access the support that is available.

More information on the services available, including how to access support, is available here

The Defence All-hours Support Line (ASL) is a confidential telephone service for ADF members and their families that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 1800 628 036.

Crisis support and confidential counselling is also available by calling the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) on 1800 011 046.

Media Contact
Defence Media (02 6127 1999