The Hon Darren Chester MP
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister for Defence Personnel
REDUCING the risk of suicide and improving the mental health and wellbeing of Australia’s veterans and their families is at the centre of a new four-year Veteran Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy and National Action Plan released today.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said the Government was committed to putting veterans and their families first and mental health and wellbeing was a key priority, as well as ensuring they have the support they need, when and where they need it.
“Our approach to the mental health and wellbeing of veterans and their families recognises that good mental health is supported by whole of life wellbeing,” Mr Chester said.
“For the vast majority of people, serving in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is overwhelmingly a positive experience. It’s good for the individual, it's good for our community and it's in our national interest.
“Just like all Australians, there are times when veterans and their families may require additional support for their mental health and that is why the Federal Government has been working hard with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA), Australian Defence Force leaders, ex-service organisations, medical professionals and the community to improve mental health outcomes for veterans and their families.
“This includes introducing free, uncapped and life-long mental health treatment for veterans, 24/7 access to a personal mental health lifeline, Open Arms, which is now also available to veterans’ families, making the transition process easier for those leaving the ADF, introducing an immediate payment for vulnerable veterans while their claims are being processed, and making it quicker and easier for veterans to process claims.
“We have also funded PTSD assistance dogs for veterans for the first time, recognising the valuable role these dogs play in supporting many veterans in Australia, and are in the process of completing six new Veteran Wellbeing Centres located in Townsville, Darwin, Perth, Adelaide, Wodonga and Nowra.
“This strategy builds on this work and addresses the Government’s commitment to putting in place short-term initiatives that are flexible and responsive in nature to provide support during significant events.
“We want to ensure the appropriate services are available to support transitioning Australian Defence Force members, veterans and their families to live healthy and productive lives.
“We also want to empower veterans to manage their needs independently by providing access to services and information when, and where they need it.”
The Veteran Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy and National Action Plan aims to drive a series of changes to enable a shift from an illness focus to a wellness focus.
The strategy builds on the work already underway with the announcement earlier this year by the Prime Minister of the establishment of a new independent National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention to inquire into all suspected veteran and Australian Defence Force suicides and their causes.
“The Prime Minister also announced the establishment of a statutory Veteran Family Advocate who will represent the views of veterans and their families to help shape policy and the administration of veteran benefits and support,” Mr Chester said.
“Veterans' mental health and wellbeing is a matter for everyone – governments, service providers, families, friends, employers, community organisations, ex service organisations and the veteran community – and we must all work together to achieve the best outcomes possible.”
The Government spends more than $230 million a year on veterans' mental health – which is uncapped and driven by demand – as part of an $11 billion annual spend for services and support for veterans and their families.
To download a copy of the Veteran Mental Health and Wellbeing Plan and the National Action Plan, visit the DVA website.
If you need help or someone to talk to contact Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling on 1800 011 064, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Rachel Tharratt: 02 6277 7820
DVA Media: 02 6289 6466
Office of the Hon Darren Chester, Canberra ACT
Open Arms — Veterans and Families Counselling provides support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Free and confidential help is available 24/7. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 1800 011 046 or +61 8 8241 4546) or visit www.OpenArms.gov.au