An $80,000 feasibility study into strengthening veteran’s mental health and wellbeing in the ACT has been announced by the Territory and Federal Governments to help develop a national support service.
The study will help inform both governments about the most appropriate way to approach the subject and how resources can best be directed to help veterans and their families.
The work will build on existing programs – including six Veterans’ Wellbeing Centres across the nation – and help government and non-government organisations streamline their approach to veteran services, the Federal Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said.
“Results from this feasibility study, which will investigate the establishment of a national research and telehealth hub in the ACT, will support the health and wellbeing of our veterans across Australia,” Mr Chester said.
The study is expected to be completed by the middle of the year; however, the procurement process is still ongoing.
Veterans are at an increased risk of suicide compared with other Australians, with ex-servicemen almost 20 per cent more likely to commit suicide than the average Australian. Suicide rates in ex-servicewomen are also higher than their civilian counterparts.
Between 2001 to 2017, 419 serving, reserve, and ex-serving defence force personnel took their own life.
There are around 26,000 veterans in the ACT, with a high concentration of servicemen and women within the Territory and the surrounding regions.
The study comes off the back of the establishment of a new, permanent National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention, which was announced by the Federal Government in early February.
The commissioner – who sits independent of government – has the power and resources to investigate veteran suicides and related issues in real-time, as opposed to focusing on a one-off review of past practices.
They will also have the same powers as a royal commission, which includes being able to compel witnesses to give evidence and produce evidence.
An initial $40 million has been allocated for the commissioner.
If you are a veteran in need of help, you can call Open Arms for mental health support and free and confidential counselling on 1800 011 046 24-hours a day,. The service is available 24/7. Visit their website at openarms.gov.au.
If you are concerned about your immediate welfare, or the welfare of a loved one, call 000 immediately.