Senate launches inquiry into mental health of veterans

Published 31 Aug 2015

The mental health of veterans will be high on the agenda in the coming weeks, as the Senate begins an inquiry into the problems many soldiers suffer due to the nature of their work.

Anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are just some of the conditions current and former Australian Defence Force (ADF) members experience because of distressing events they witness.

Some of these illnesses are so severe that they cause significant ongoing difficulties in soldiers' personal and professional lives. Individuals can be so adversely affected that they are unable to return to work.

The Senate's inquiry has received submissions from various organisations regarding mental health among ADF personnel. Greens Spokesperson for Veterans' Affairs Peter Whish-Wilson said he would be attending the first public hearing of the inquiry, which is held today (August 31).

"This Inquiry is a constructive effort by the Senate to better understand the challenges faced by returning service personnel and investigate whether enough is being done to support them," he explained.

"Some of the issues that are emerging include the lack of population-wide mental health statistics for returned service personnel and no clear understanding of the number of veterans with mental illnesses who are living rough on the streets or dying by suicide."

Inquiry submissions

The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee has received 68 submissions on the subject of veterans' mental health for the inquiry. 

One of these submissions was from the wife of an ex-services man who suffers PTSD. She argued there was stigma associated with the condition among soldiers, which prevents people from disclosing their experiences.

The woman, whose name was withheld, said the commonly cited figure of 8 per cent of soldiers having PTSD refers only to those who are still in service. The number of former personnel suffering from the illness is much higher, she claimed, with many not coming forward until years later.

"Evidence for this can be found among the Vietnam veteran cohort, some of who are still coming forward today to disclose mental ill health," she stated. "The ADF are consistently quoted in the media as stating that rates of PTSD and suicide are low, and not necessarily related to deployments."

However, the woman's submission claimed this stance contradicts the experiences of many ex-services personnel, as well as international comparisons and Australian studies.

If you are suffering from PTSD, you may be entitled to make a total and permanent disability claim. Please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners to find out more.

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