Following reports of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) being turned away from some psychiatric services, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is calling on the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) to work together with the Australian Government to ensure more funding and support for the mental health needs of Australian veterans.
‘The RANZCP considers it crucial that there be strategies to promote and support the mental health and wellbeing of veterans and ex-service personnel, as well as services that provide them with quality mental health care,’ RANZCP President Dr Kym Jenkins said.
‘The RANZCP is aware that many current and former members of the ADF find accessing appropriate care difficult, and are often limited by the availability of services within their area.
‘Unfortunately there is a significant shortage of psychiatrists in many parts of the country, particularly in regional areas where many military bases are situated.
‘More funding and incentives for doctors, such as flexible working arrangements, locum services and rural training pathways, are just some of the practical solutions that would improve mental health support offered in rural and remote areas.’
Dr Duncan Wallace, Chair of the RANZCP Military and Veterans’ Mental Health Network added: ‘Many psychiatrists are unfamiliar with military and veteran patients and feel that they don’t have appropriate expertise in this field, especially in the management of PTSD’
‘We need more psychiatrists who are skilled in the care of serving members of the military, veterans and emergency responders.
‘This is something the RANZCP is working to resolve, and our newly established Military and Veterans’ Mental Health Network will work to promote this sub-specialty of psychiatry, and improve the clinical expertise of RANZCP members so we can better support the mental health needs of our serving and ex-serving military personnel.’
Dr Michelle Atchison, Chair of the RANZCP Section for Private Practice said: ‘DVA work is rewarding but poorly funded.
‘There are also bureaucratic issues with this work as a large amount of time-consuming reporting is required to support the DVA and this can directly impact on the availability of clinicians.
‘Review of the DVA funding model could facilitate improved clinical services for veterans by psychiatrists in private practice.’
For more information see the RANZCP’s submission to the Review of services available to veterans and members of the Australian Defence Force in relation to the prevention of self-harm and suicide and the RANZCP’s submission to the Inquiry into suicide by veterans and ex-service personnel.
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The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is a membership organisation that prepares medical specialists in the field of psychiatry, supports and enhances clinical practice, advocates for people affected by mental illness and advises governments on mental health care. For information about our work, our members or our history, visit www.ranzcp.org.