Letter to the Editor - Sunday Telegraph
2 April 2014
Defence recognises the unique demands of military service and we continue to learn from our experience of supporting wounded, injured and ill personnel. We are committed to the health and welfare of all our service men and women. Our support programs are based on research and data collected through studies such as the 2010 Australian Defence Force Mental Health Prevalence and Wellbeing Study. It is important to note that some of the statistics arising from this study are complex. The figures in the article ‘Haunted by hidden wounds’ (Sunday Telegraph, 30 March 2014) reflect some inaccuracies compared to statistics that underpin Defence’s comprehensive approach and resourcing towards mental health.
The facts are:
- The estimated prevalence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) amongst Defence members is 8.3 per cent, with over half of those reported having received treatment in the previous 12 months.
- From this research we also know that soon after returning home from deployment to the Middle East Area of Operations, 4.8 per cent of the participants reported symptoms consistent with psychological distress, and 1.9 per cent of the participants reported symptoms consistent with post traumatic stress.
- The Australian Defence Force (ADF) estimates that at least 10 per cent of ADF personnel may seek help in the short to medium term for mental health issues. Although this rate may increase, research evidence demonstrates the number of people who will seek help will occur gradually. Planned ongoing surveillance and research will assist the ADF to monitor and address any increase of mental disorders or demands for mental health care.
- ADF members on deployment are considered a high-risk group for the development of mental disorder due to the nature of their duties. However our research also shows that deployment is not a sole risk factor for the development of mental disorder but rather it can also be attributed to the cumulative effect of traumatic life experiences, whether service related or not.
Given these facts, Defence has developed a comprehensive and multi-layered approach to mental health and wellbeing with a range of support programs available for all personnel, no matter the source or cause of their mental health problems. Defence has also increased the mental health workforce; improved policy and training for ADF health professionals; increased mental health research and surveillance; and further enhanced preventive strategies. If the figures were higher or if they increase in time, Defence will resource our programs and funding accordingly.
Defence members continue to be employed during their treatment and rehabilitation and wounded, injured or ill members are given full support and the opportunity to recover and return to their previous or new work within the ADF. If this is not possible, Defence oversees the transfer of health care and rehabilitation to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) or specialist providers.
There has been no degradation in the level of care and services afforded to our members and their families, and Defence will continue to ensure our people receive the best health services available, or seamlessly transition them to civilian life under the care of the DVA on their discharge from the ADF.
We are determined to ensure the needs of our people are met and we remain committed in our efforts, in partnership with the DVA, to build resilience and improve awareness of all mental disorders that impact on ADF personnel, including PTSD.
M.D. BINSKIN AC
Vice Chief of the Defence Force