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November 24, 2011
By Graham McBean
SENIOR Defence chiefs have iden-
tified seven priority actions for the
care of ADF mental health follow-
ing the launch of the ADF Mental
Health and Wellbeing Strategy on
Defence Science and Personnel
Minister Warren Snowdon launched
the new strategy based on the find-
ings 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 prevalence of mental health dis-
orders in a defence population is a
world first," Mr Snowdon said.
The new strategy addresses seven
immediate priority areas to be deliv-
ered in the 2012-2015 Mental Health
Action Plan to be developed in con-
sultation with the Services and key
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 disorder at
some point in their lifetime.
Anxiety disorders are the most
common mental health disorders and
of these disorders, post-traumatic
stress is higher than the Australian
"What makes ADF people dif-
ferent 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 concentrat-
ing our efforts," Mr Snowdon said.
The study indicated there was lit-
tle difference in the prevalence of
mental health disorders between per-
sonnel 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 serv-
ing men and women," Mr Snowdon
said.The strategy is specifically aimed
at providing a solid foundation for
good health and wellbeing within the
ADF and to ensure services targeting
mental health care are promoted and
It will focus on both strengthen-
ing resilience and enabling recovery.
The study is part of a $93 mil-
lion Mental Health Reform Program
designed to improve access to men-
tal health care for servicemen and
women and veterans.
The four-year reform program
was commissioned following rec-
ommendations from the 2009 Dunt
Review of mental health care in the
About half of the ADF workforce
was surveyed as part of the project,
a collaboration between the Centre
for Traumatic Stress Studies at the
University of Adelaide and 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 disor-
ders," GEN Hurley said.
"Importantly, we have changed
our policies and procedures to give
us more flexibility with managing
recovery times, with discharge from
the Defence force being an option of
"I am very pleased to see that our
comprehensive operational mental
health support programs are work-
ing, ensuring better outcomes for
ADF personnel and their families."
Copies of the study and strategy are
available at www.defence.gov.au/
By Graham McBean
LEADING experts in mental health
have applauded the ADF Mental Health
and Wellbeing Prevalence Study as
world's best practice.
Executive Director of the Brain
and Mind Research Institute Professor
Ian Hickie said the study would set
the national standard for mental health
"Where they have really emphasised
prevention, early intervention, use of
e-health strategies, easy access to care,
peer and family support and most impor-
tantly collective action, they are world
leading," Professor Hickie said.
It is also a positive sign for Defence
personnel involved with the groundbreak-
Director General Mental Health,
Psychology and Health Resources David
Morton said the prevalence study had
confirmed the foundation work estab-
lished by the ADF and highlighted areas
for further change.
He said the study highlighted the need
for a partnership between the member,
ADF, health practitioners and, impor-
tantly, the member's family in developing
"It has also helped us understand that
there are some target spots for us," Mr
"Young males with high levels of
depression is something that we didn't
really have a clear appreciation of before
Mr Morton said programs could now
start targeting new strategies for those
ADF members can access mental health care
by talking to their CO or supervisor, presenting
to a health facility or contacting their Mental
Health and Psychology Section. 24-hour assis-
tance is available on the All Hours Support
Line on 1800 628 036 which offers 24/7
access to crisis counselling and referral for
treatment and support.
Best of care
ADF world leader in mental health
A communications strategy to
address stigma and barriers to
Enhanced service delivery.
Development of e-mental health
Upskilling health providers.
Improving pathways to care.
Strengthening the mental health
Developing a comprehensive
peer support network.
GETTING RID OF THE STIGMA:
CDF GEN David Hurley has
encouraged ADF personnel to
seek help if they have mental
Photo: CPL Chris Moore
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