Published 17 Apr 2015
Australia's most comprehensive study of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is expected to bring much-needed insight into the mental and physical health of former military men and women.
The research, which will receive $5 million of funding over a five-year period, aims to examine the challenges modern-day veterans face when returning to civilian life after serving their country.
PTSD is an anxiety illness that affects people who have experienced stressful, distressing or frightening events. This includes warfare, although there are a number of other incidents that can lead to the condition, such as car accidents, violent assaults or natural disasters.
Some insurance and superannuation policies may offer total and permanent disability (TPD) payments for those who suffer PTSD and other mental illnesses. As such, launching a TPD claim could help individuals experiencing these symptoms to secure compensation for lost wages, medical bills and other expenses if they are unable to return to work due to their condition.
According to the Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation (GMRF), 1 million Australians suffer PTSD at some stage. GMRF is working with the Returned and Services League (RSL) Queensland branch on the PTSD research in an effort to find preventative measures for some of the physical symptoms of the disorder.
Participants set to take part in the study include contemporary veterans who have served in operations worldwide, specifically conflict, peacekeeping and humanitarian missions since 1972.
GMRF CEO Miriam Dwyer said the long-term objective could help reduce the number of former Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel experiencing severe mental health problems and a range of critical illnesses.
"Before this study, we hypothesised that those with PTSD are more likely to suffer from serious lung, liver and heart diseases but we didn't know for sure and we didn't know why - the current study will answer these questions," she said.
"We've also investigated the genetic and environmental factors that predispose veterans to PTSD."
RSL Queensland has already invested $1.75 million into research investigating the mental health effects of the Vietnam War on veterans. The results are scheduled for release in September.
Tim Thomas, an ADF veteran, praised the increased efforts being made to explore the ramifications of severe anxiety disorders in relation to military servicemen and women.
"PTSD makes you feel like you're alone. We gladly suffer for our country but when we come home our loved ones suffer. It's really hard to admit you're the person causing suffering to your family," he explained.