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Army November 24, 2011
Action on mental health
SENIOR Defence chiefs have identified
seven priority actions for the care of ADF
mental health following the launch of
the ADF Mental Health and Wellbeing
Strategy on October 21.
Defence Science and Personnel Minister
Warren Snowdon launched the new strategy
based on the findings of the 2010 ADF Mental
Health Prevalence and Wellbeing Study.
Mr Snowdon said the study had shaped
the blueprint for managing the mental fitness
of ADF personnel.
"This type of study to validate the preva-
lence of mental health disorders in a defence
population is a world first," Mr Snowdon said.
The new strategy addresses seven imme-
diate priority areas to be delivered in the
2012-2015 Mental Health Action Plan (part
of the overall strategy) to be developed in
consultation with the services and key stake-
The study confirms that mental disorder
is as common in the ADF as in the wider
Australian community, with about half of
ADF members experiencing a mental disor-
der at some point in their lifetimes.
Anxiety disorders are the most common
mental health disorders and, of these disor-
ders, post-traumatic stress is higher than the
"What makes ADF people different is
their exposure to high-risk situations and as
a result there is a higher occurrence of PTSD
than in the Australian community, making
this an area where we are concentrating our
efforts," Mr Snowdon said.
The study indicated there was little differ-
ence in the prevalence of mental health dis-
orders between personnel who had deployed
and those who had not.
"The results of this study will help the
ADF tailor its mental health support to suit
the needs of its serving men and women," Mr
The strategy is specifically aimed at pro-
viding a solid foundation for good health
and wellbeing within the ADF and to ensure
services targeting mental health care are pro-
moted and available.
It will focus on both strengthening resil-
ience and enabling recovery.
The study is part of a $93m Mental
Health Reform Program designed to improve
access to mental health care for servicemen
and women and veterans.
The four-year reform program was com-
missioned following recommendations from
the 2009 Dunt Review of mental-health care
in the ADF.
About half of the ADF workforce was
surveyed as part of the project, a collabora-
tion between the Centre for Traumatic Stress
Studies at the University of Adelaide, the
Centre for Military and Veterans' Health, and
Defence's Joint Health Command.
CDF Gen David Hurley said there was
still some reluctance among ADF personnel
to seek help for mental illness, stemming
from a fear that having a mental disorder
may affect an individual's career.
"The ADF is working hard to change that
perception, providing a range of support to
people who are experiencing mental health
disorders," Gen Hurley said.
"Importantly, we have changed our poli-
cies and procedures to give us more flex-
ibility with managing recovery times, with
discharge from the Defence force being an
option of last resort."
ADF members can access mental health care by talk-
ing to their CO or supervisor, presenting to the health
facility or contacting their mental health and psychol-
ogy sections. 24-hour assistance is available on the
all-hours support line on 1800 628 036.
While the 2012-2015 Mental Health and
Wellbeing Action Plan will be finalised in early
2012, senior personnel have highlighted seven
priority areas of concern.
A communications strategy to address stigma
and barriers to care.
Enhanced service delivery.
Development of e-mental health approaches.
Up-skilling health providers.
Improving pathways to care.
Strengthening the mental health screening
Developing a comprehensive peer support
Help is at hand: ADF personnel's exposure to high-risk environments makes them more susceptible
to post traumatic stress. Here soldiers search for IEDs during a clearance patrol in the Mirabad
Photo by PO Damian Pawlenko
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