Statistics support need for review of local veteran mental health services

Statistics identifying the prevalence of suicide amongst current and former serving defence personnel highlights the urgent need for increased and better mental health services for the local defence community, according to Townsville based Government Senator Ian Macdonald..

Senator Macdonald said the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) study found a suicide rate amongst veterans aged 18-24 of almost twice that of Australian men of the same age.

“These statistics are concerning, particularly given that Townsville is home to the largest army base in the country and a community where veterans typically settle,” Senator Macdonald said.

“I am pleased that earlier this year, Townsville was announced as one of the first Suicide Prevention trial sites, which will specifically focus on the mental health of veterans and defence personnel in our community.”

Senator Macdonald said with the region’s veteran defence population approaching 10,000, it was time the mental health needs of current and former defence personnel were prioritised.

As a trial site for the innovative Suicide Prevention program, Senator Macdonald said the local findings will help improve understanding of the challenges and help develop best-practice mental health services in the defence community.

Senator Macdonald said he was expecting an interim report on the trial to be released in coming weeks.

“I look forward to seeing preliminary results from the trial in the next few weeks, which will help paint a better picture of the effectiveness of existing services, and where more support or additional resources might be needed.”

This is one of a range of initiatives the Turnbull Government is implementing to support the mental health of former defence personnel. Other initiatives include an additional $3.1million to extend the Veterans and Veterans Family Counselling Service, $4million to ex-service organisations to promote social inclusion and peer-to-peer support for younger veterans, a $6million investment in Phoenix Australia to better understand mental health challenges and develop better treatment for veterans and the wider community, and $1million to continue suicide prevention workshops and to pilot an alternative approach to suicide prevention in the veteran community.

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