Leading psychiatrist calls on government to appoint expert in veteran suicide

05 February 2020

The leading representative body for psychiatrists has welcomed the announcement of a permanent independent commissioner into veteran suicides, mental health and wellbeing and urges the government to ensure that the investigation is done with the appropriate clinical awareness and understanding of this area.

The President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), Associate Professor John Allan, said the concerning rates of mental health issues and suicide amongst veterans must be addressed, not only immediately, but appropriately.

‘The disproportionate rates of psychological distress and suicide in Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel and veterans is a clear call for immediate remedies’, said Associate Professor Allan.

‘The announcement of the commissioner is a first step toward addressing veterans’ mental health but we caution the government to carefully consider the resources at their disposal and lean on the mental health community for expertise, resources and advice throughout this process.

‘The RANZCP has a taskforce on suicide prevention, we also have a Military and Veterans’ Mental Health Network lead by members of the ADF and we strongly encourage the government to utilise the leading experts on this matter.

‘As leading mental health professionals, the RANZCP are today saying to the government, you can call on us for our support and expertise. We are here to assist and we want to help address this issue.

Earlier this year, the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry Report A Better Way to Support Veterans (2019), highlighted the urgent need for the renewal of the Veteran Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy to place a focus on suicide prevention.

‘Many service members (current and previous) face significant barriers to obtaining the support and mental health services that they need’, said Associate Professor Allan.

‘These barriers can relate to the challenges of transitioning from active duty to civilian life, but can also be the result of stigma, exposure to trauma and fragmented service delivery.

‘Support for current service members and veterans should be seamless, ensuring continuous access to services throughout enlistment, training, deployment, discharge and ongoing civilian life and it should come from a place of knowledge and expertise in the area of mental health and suicide.’

The RANZCP is committed to working closely with the Australian government, DVA, the various branches of the defence forces, community members and mental healthcare practitioners to design and apply approaches that prevent and reduce the rate of suicide among veterans.

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 Sarah Carr on +61 (0)3 9640 0646 or +61 437 315 911, or email media@ranzcp.org.