Psychiatrists request urgent action to address veteran mental health needs and suicide prevention

Veterans’ Health Week is an annual event celebrated every year on 1-9 October to support the health and wellbeing of veterans. This year, the RANZCP is taking the opportunity to reiterate its call for urgent action to improve mental health services and facilities available to defence personnel and veterans.

The RANZCP has provided a comprehensive submission to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide. The RANZCP welcomes the focus of the Royal Commission’s interim report released in August on understanding the lived experience of those involved in defence forces.

The RANZCP’s submission recommends nurturing experts in the field of veteran mental health to generate further research and advancements in the field in addition to working with veterans in the community through programs like the Military and Veteran Psychiatry Training Program (MVPTP).

The MVPTP is a Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) initiative that provides funding to health organisations to support training experiences in facilities who predominantly work with military and veteran personnel, are based within an area with high defence personnel presence and/or are DVA service providers.

RANZCP President Associate Professor Vinay Lakra said psychiatrists are qualified to guide the Royal Commission on current approaches to suicide prevention and to support veterans experiencing psychological distress.

'The treatment of mental disorders is critical to suicide prevention. Evidence has shown that in up to 90% of suicide cases where a psychological autopsy was conducted, mental disorder was one of the identified root causes'.

'There’s no question that the concerning rates of mental health issues and suicide amongst veterans must be addressed, not only immediately, but in an appropriate and sustained manner'.

'Support services for serving members and veterans should be underpinned by a skilled workforce, including psychiatrists, with specialised knowledge of military and veteran mental health'.

'Psychiatrists have the expertise required to treat a vast range of mental health illnesses in the community'.

'Prioritisation of the academic workforce is also a key strategic consideration and necessary to sustain Australia’s research capabilities into the future and continue improving mental health outcomes for veterans'.

The MVPTP funds specialised psychiatry training positions for selected RANZCP trainees and the RANZCP has encouraged further investment in this program.

'Training programs like these that strengthen workforce capability to deliver psychiatric services specific to the unique needs of veterans and military personnel must be boosted through increased resources and capabilities', Associate Professor Lakra said.

Dr Andrew Khoo, the Chair of the RANZCP Military, Veterans and Emergency Services Personnel Mental Health Network (MVESPMHN) Committee, said that this submission to the Royal Commission is based on the best available evidence and the wealth of experience contained within the MVESPMHN Committee.

'Improved access to psychiatric care for serving members and veterans is a pivotal outcome for the Royal Commission'.

'Without addressing the prevalence of mental disorders and ensuring access to psychiatric diagnosis and treatment, veteran health outcomes and suicide prevention efforts will be hindered', Dr Khoo said.

For all other expert mental health information visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call +61 437 315 911, or email

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 and other groups on mental health care. For information about our work, our members or our history, visit

In Australia: If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or or the Suicide Callback Service on 1300 659 467 or

In Aotearoa New Zealand: If you or someone you know needs help, 1737 is here to help, for free - Mental Health. You can also contact Lifeline NZ on 0800 543 354 or or the Suicide Crisis Helpline on 0508 828 865 or


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