A Veteran Mental Health and Wellbeing Summit will be held in Canberra tomorrow.
DPS AUSPIC photo
The summit will bring together key stakeholders at Parliament House to discuss improving services and support to those who have served in the Australian Defence Force.
It will be chaired by Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester and focus on extra steps that can be taken to improve veterans’ mental health, wellbeing and suicide prevention.
“As a Federal government, we are determined to put veterans and their families first, which is why I’m convening the Veteran Mental Health and Wellbeing Summit this Wednesday,” Mr Chester said.
“It’s an opportunity to take stock of current programs and assess what else can be done to improve mental wellbeing of veterans.
“While we have already expanded access to free counselling, and introduced new payments to ensure veterans submitting mental health claims have financial support while their claims are being considered, it’s important to constantly assess the government’s strategy.”
Mr Chester said experts would be brought together to consider the current range of services, programs and pilots offered by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and to give advice about the strengths of current settings, where gaps could be addressed, and to inform the government’s forward plan and strategy.
“This summit will be the first stage of a structured engagement with ex-service organisations, veterans, families and service providers, over the coming months and will be a great opportunity for stakeholders to continue working with the government on veteran matters of great importance.
“I will also be working through the government’s approach to veteran’s mental health and well-being with my Federal Ministerial colleagues,” Mr Chester said.
“State and territory governments also have a vital role to play and mental health will be a focus at the Veterans Ministers Council meeting in August.
“The Prime Minister has made it clear that mental health will be a core focus of this government and he has already announced several initiatives aimed at suicide prevention and mental wellbeing in the wider community.
“It is a sad and complex issue which costs Australia more than 3000 people each year and when it comes to veteran suicide, the only acceptable number for me is zero – the only acceptable number for the Australian people is zero.
“We need to keep working together to improve mental wellbeing and prevent suicide throughout Australia.”
Minister’s opening address to the summit:
Thank you for your attendance here today.
You’re here because you have expert knowledge in mental health, suicide prevention and the potential impacts of military service on individuals and their families.Today’s an opportunity to take stock of where we are regarding mental wellbeing of veterans and serving ADF personnel… and where we want to be in the future.
This is your chance to help set the veterans’ mental health agenda for this term of the Morrison Government.
It’s an opportunity for a full and frank discussion about what is working, what isn’t working, our knowledge or research gaps… and what else we can be doing together to improve mental wellbeing.
The Prime Minister has made it clear that mental health will be a core focus of this government and he has already announced several initiatives aimed at suicide prevention and mental wellbeing in the wider community.
Every suicide is a tragedy, especially for families and loved ones left behind.
It is a sad and complex issue which costs Australia more than 3000 people each year and of particular concern to us, here today, is the estimated 30 veterans who take their own life each year.
When it comes to veteran suicide, the only acceptable number for me is zero – the only acceptable number for the Australian people is zero.
As a government we are determined to put veterans and their families first.
I’m working with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Australian Defence Force leaders, ex-service organisations, medical professionals and the community to improve mental health outcomes for veterans and their families.
We are spending more than $230 million per year to improve veteran mental health and we are working with defence to improve resilience among serving members.
There have been a number of significant inquiries, research and reports which have led to significant changes and the key question today is, what else can we do that will make a practical difference?
We have introduced free mental health care for veterans, expanded the Open Arms counselling service and we are transforming DVA to reduce claim times and adopt a more beneficial approach to veterans and their families.
I believe we are heading in the right direction but there’s always more to be done… particularly when it comes to communicating the real situation and the benefits of defence service and the extent of veterans support in Australia.
Today is the first stage of a process which will include further meetings with veterans, family members and state ministers as we finalise our new mental health strategy before the end of the year.
Free and confidential help is available through Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling, for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Help is available 24/7 by calling 1800 011 046.