On 19 and 20 July 2017, Ministers for Defence People and Veterans from the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand meet at the International Ministerial Conference on Veterans’ Issues in London.
They came together under a shared commitment to their defence and veteran communities to discuss veterans’ mental health and transition from military to civilian life.
Over the two-day conference, the five countries identified many overlapping themes and mutual challenges, including for some nations addressing and treating post-traumatic disorder, rates of suicide and homelessness among veterans, barriers to mental health care, alternative therapies, veteran-centric approaches to the provision of services, and early intervention.
Delegates had an opportunity to hear from leading expert, Professor Sir Simon Wessely on veterans mental health challenges and were taken by the extent of the research and the key facts and findings.
Delegates recognised that to face these challenges and progress reforms it was essential that evidence based research and data informed policy decisions and implementation. Ministers heard from clinical experts how myths about veterans’ mental health were damaging efforts to encourage veterans to seek help as early as possible. They agreed that efforts must continue on improving the provision of information to the veterans community and to transform the delivery of support and services to the defence and veteran communities in all five nations.
Delegates agreed to establish a network between the five nations to share and undertake research and emerging data, confirming their continuing commitment to collaborate on strategies that recognise, support, and care for the defence and veteran communities across the five countries. The initial research that will be undertaken will look at risk assessments and prevention strategies for veterans at risk of suicide.
Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for crisis support and free and confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 8 8241 45 46). VVCS is a service founded by Vietnam veterans.