Image: Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (sourced)
Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Minister, joined with his Ministers for Health and Veterans Affairs in Canberra today to announce a broad reaching review of mental health and suicide prevention services for veterans. The review will be led by the National Mental Health Commission and involve service providers, the Australian Defence Force establishment, health workers and community groups. The Prime Minister has also requested that there be an additional focus on whether or not access to economic opportunities are available such as jobs and training once serving members transitions out of the force.
Before the July federal election Turnbull was vocal in his support of the need to do more when it came to suicide prevention more broadly saying:
"You may not be aware but my electorate of Wentworth includes The Gap at Watson's Bay which is the place in Australia regrettably where more people take their lives than anywhere else," Turnbull said.
"Suicide and suicide prevention has been a very keen personal interest of mine and I've come to learn a lot about it, particularly through my discussions with Professor Ian Hickie who talks and writes about what he calls the mental wealth of nations.
"There is no doubt that mental health or mental illness has an enormous cost on our community. A tragic cost, obviously on the individuals who take their own lives and on their families but also a huge economic cost as well. That is why we are putting more money than ever, particularly into front line primary health mental health services."
According to Queensland-based charity, Walking Wounded, since 1999, 49 soldiers have been killed while on active duty, 239 veterans have taken their own lives.
Founder and chief executive Brian Freeman told news.com in February that many veterans struggled adjusting to civilian life, and without the proper support could spiral into deep depression that could cause them to take their own lives.
He set up the charity to provide counselling and support to those returned soldiers and to promote a zero tolerance of veteran suicide.
“Life in the defence force is so far removed from that of the average Australian,” Mr Freeman said.
“When that way of life is taken away, for whatever reason, it’s a new battle that these soldiers face — one that can include homelessness, incarceration, family breakdowns and sadly in the worst instances, suicide.
“Soldiers have struggled for many years losing mates on the battlefields; we certainly shouldn’t be losing those we fought alongside, back on home soil.
“At Walking Wounded we know if we can provide returning soldiers with early mentoring and counselling, we can help stop these issues from developing. And let’s be frank, what price do we put on a life, and indeed on someone that has been brave enough to serve our country?”
Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
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