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RI OS Provi r Num r: 00100G
September 15, 2011
By Graham McBean
AS THE tempo of operations con-
tinues, there has been an increasing
focus on making sure that health-care
intervention is getting to the people
who need it when they need it.
More than 34,000 Australian mili-
tary personnel have deployed to the
MEAO alone -- many on multiple
occasions -- since 2003.
The release in 2009 of the Dunt
Review into mental health in the ADF
has led to reforms that will provide
the ADF with one of the largest work-
place mental health support systems in
Mental health issues "are life-
changing events". However, members'
worries about their job and the stig-
ma of mental illness are the primary
obstacles to seeking help, according
to Commander Joint Health Services
MAJGEN Paul Alexander.
"The biggest challenge is still to
ensure that people understand we will
look after them," MAJGEN Alexander
"Even as recent as 12 or 18 months
ago, if someone had a complex mental
health problem the policy was that if
an individual was not fit for opera-
tional service or to deploy within 12
months then, theoretically, they were
unfit to continue in service.
"Now that policy has been com-
"We understand and recognise the
complexity of mental health recov-
ery and the fact that it may take
many years, and the fact that we have
a responsibility and a duty of care,
and that the best place to have people
recover is inside our organisation."
He says the priority is to make
sure recommendations from the Dunt
Review continue to be translated into
service delivery, policy research, edu-
cation and training.
The review was a major turning
point in ADF mental health treat-
ment. Then former CDF ACM Angus
New approach to managing
Houston immediately committed the
ADF to 49 of Professor David Dunt's
Now half way through an $82 mil-
lion four-year program, many of those
recommendations are either in place or
planned for completion by December
While Professor Dunt compared
the ADF commitment to mental
health favourably to other countries,
too much depended "on the enthusi-
asm and commitment of ADF regional
mental health providers".
In response, the ADF mental health
workforce has been increased by more
than 50 per cent. Another 24 positions
will be added over the next 18 months.
These new positions will staff eight
new Regional Mental Health Teams
(RMHT) comprising a coordinator and
Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs
coordinator. Clinical psychologists
have also been recruited for three of
On a local level, psychology sup-
port sections have been integrated with
other local mental health profession-
als to form multi-disciplinary mental
health and psychology sections.
This includes assessment and treat-
ment for conditions such as depres-
sion, anxiety, stress, trauma, relation-
ship problems, grief and loss, work
conflicts and career counselling.
In addition, the creation of the ADF
Centre for Mental Health will provide
Defence with a facility to research
best-practice mental health interven-
tion programs and to support and train
ADF health providers.
By the end of 2013, MAJGEN
Alexander wants the initiatives estab-
lished from Dunt to be embedded as
"business as usual".
SUPPORT IS ONLY A PHONE CALL AWAY
GET HELP: If
don't be afraid
to pick up the
GETTING help with mental health issues is just a
ADF members can access mental health care
by talking with their CO or supervisor, present-
ing to the health facility on their base, contacting
their local Mental Health and Psychology Section
or by calling the All Hours Support Line on 1800
This ser vice offers 24/7 access to crisis coun-
selling and referral for treatment and support.
TICK THE BOX: Recent
changes to the ADF's strategy
for dealing with mental health
issues help retain personnel.
Photo: LAC Bill Solomou
Making sure this happens is the
job of David Morton, appointed
in February 2010 to lead reform as
Director General of the ADF's newly
created Mental Health, Psychology
and Rehabilitation branch.
Mr Morton said the next milestone
would be the critical analysis of the
recently completed Military Health
Outcomes Program (Milhop) survey,
which is expected in the near future.
The ADF has engaged an adviso-
ry panel of leading experts on mental
health from around the country and
external to Defence to analyse the data
and look at the suitability of the ADF
Mr Morton said the information
would give the ADF a thorough under-
standing of the rates of mental health
issues and the major problems people
Importantly, the data will also help
the ADF understand the barriers to
accessing health care and how treat-
ment can be improved.
"We are very conscious that as we
get mental health providers out there
that we integrate the mental health and
other health services into a more com-
prehensive health service and make it
easier for people to access those ser-
vices," Mr Morton said.
With this "final piece of the jig-
saw", the ADF will be able to augment
existing programs with best-practice
outcomes designed to reshape ADF
mental health care.
Mr Morton said an evidence-based
program that included awareness,
resilience and treatment interventions
would meet the complete needs of the
"Add on to that the rehabilitation
and recovery and what you have got is
a continuity of services," he said.
"Together that provides a compre-
hensive program that we are strength-
ening and that is what Dunt was really
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