Raising awareness of mental health

With World Mental Health Day falling on October 10, Defence is encouraging its people to host activities throughout that week to raise awareness and promote connectedness to reduce the stigma and risks around mental illness.

CAPTION: Army Physiotherapist Lieutenant Nicola Hribar leads a sunrise yoga class for members of ship’s company and embarked forces on the flight deck of HMAS Canberra during AUSINDEX 2019. Story by Sergeant Matthew Bickerton. Photo by Leading Seaman Steven Thomson.

More than two in five Australians aged 16-85 have experienced a mental health condition, with the most common being depression and anxiety.

Twenty years ago, Defence developed its first mental health strategy that drove a range of reforms in the delivery of programs to promote mental health and wellbeing.

Surgeon General ADF Rear Admiral Sarah Sharkey, who has served more than 25 years as a medical officer in Navy, has watched Defence’s approach to mental health and wellbeing change over that time.

“The prevalence of mental illness in the Defence population is overall similar to the Australian general population,” she said.

“But some disorders are experienced at higher rates than in the general community, while others are at lower rates. There are a range of reasons for this that relate to human and environmental factors, and we know serving in the Defence force provides a range of protective and risk factors.”

Rear Admiral Sharkey said it could sometimes be difficult to know if what people were experiencing was part of life’s ups and downs or something more serious.

“If how you’re feeling is impacting your relationships at home or work, you’re experiencing distress, your sleep, diet or exercise is affected, or people around you are expressing worry, it’s time to seek help,” she said.

“We also know that seeking help early is important for better health outcomes and it is reassuring that the rates of engagement and uptake of mental health services by Defence personnel exceed community standards.

“Getting help early will optimise recovery, and help get you back to feeling yourself sooner rather than later to ensure you are fit to fight, fit to work and fit for life.”

If you’re concerned about your mental health contact:

  • Your garrison health centre
  • All Hours Support Line (1800 628 036)
  • 1800 IMSICK (1800 467 425)
  • Defence Family Helpline (1800 624 608)
  • Military Chaplains (1300 333 362)
  • Open Arms Veterans Line (1800 011 046)
  • Defence Employee Assistance Program (EAP) (1300 687 327).





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