Urgent action must be taken to address defence and veteran suicide rates: psychiatrists

The peak body for psychiatrists in Australia and New Zealand says urgent action must be taken to address defence and veteran suicide rates and that the interim report from the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide provides a solid foundation from which to work from.  

Associate Professor Vinay Lakra, President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) says the body of information contained in the interim report handed to government shows the Royal Commission is rightly placing significant importance on understanding the lived experience of those involved in our defence forces. 

'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', Dr Lakra said. 

'There’s a real need, as the interim report notes, for mental health systems and supports to be seamless, ensuring continuous access to services throughout enlistment, training, deployment, discharge and ongoing civilian life.

'The RANZCP supports the interim report’s urgent and immediate recommendations related to firstly, the simplification and harmonization of legislative frameworks that impact veterans, and secondly, addressing the significant backlog of outstanding Department of Veterans’ Affairs claims.

'The RANZCP will be making a comprehensive submission to the Royal Commission which will provide significant feedback to support the Commission to gain a deeper understanding of their preliminary observations. In particular, the RANZP submission will address the preliminary observations relating to data and suicide prevention'.

Dr Andrew Khoo, the Chair of the RANZCP Military, Veterans and Emergency Services Personnel Mental Health Network (MVESPMHN) Committee, said that this timely interim report outlines a considerable, multilayered and comprehensive process of information gathering, drawing from lived experience, a large body of previous enquires and reports, academic literature and a wide range of expert opinion. 

'There is an appropriate initial focus on suicide data, the importance of families and the transition period, and the DVA claims and compensation process. This document should serve to increase confidence within the wider veteran community, amongst clinicians and all stakeholders that the Royal Commission is tracking towards tangible and achievable positive reform in the veteran mental health space', Dr Khoo said.

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call +61 437 315 911, or email media@ranzcp.org

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 www.ranzcp.org.

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

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 www.lifeline.org.nz or the Suicide Crisis Helpline on 0508 828 865 or www.lifeline.org.nz/suicide-prevention.


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