ADF investigation must be mindful of mental health

23 November 2020
 
 
 

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) has called on investigators, and the Federal Government, to be mindful of the mental health issues and possible trauma that could be triggered by the recent announcement to investigate alleged wrongdoing by military personnel.

The President of the RANZCP explained that whilst investigating the allegations made against members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is of high importance, there must be a consideration for the mental health and wellbeing of the ADF members and ex-serving community both directly and indirectly affected by this investigation.

‘The recent release of the Brereton Inquiry, along with the surfacing of new allegations of misconduct, compounded by the media coverage, has resulted in a strong focus and scrutiny of military personnel,’ said Associate Professor John Allan.

‘It is admirable the responsibility and accountability the ADF has shown in admitting the issues and seeking to offer early compensation.

‘Ensuring justice, accountability and transparency for the victims and their families of the alleged war crimes is critical.

‘However, it is important to acknowledge that the high level of scrutiny and stigma that serving ADF and ex-serving members are currently facing as a collective could have lasting mental health effects, particularly given  that they may already be experiencing effects from having served time on deployment.

‘We encourage the government to ensure that there are systems and supports put in place to help those effected by the Brereton report or new investigation, as the government knows well the risks when it comes to the mental health of military personnel, veterans and their family members.

Chair of the RANZCP Military, Veterans and Emergency Services Personnel Mental Health Network, Dr Andrew Khoo explained that supporting our military members during this time of inquiry should be a key priority for our government and the ADF whilst also acknowledging and respecting the victims and their families.

‘Psychiatric treatment aims to reduce the mental health burden and improve the quality of life of our serving ADF and ex-serving community in a non-judgemental therapeutic relationship.

‘For many of our serving ADF and ex-serving community, this will have elicited strong opinions and emotional reactions. For a proportion of them, it may precipitate mental health symptoms or exacerbate pre-existing conditions, as well as potentially having a traumatising impact on members of the Australian public

‘We feel that it is also important to note that the actions of a few do not reflect the attitudes or ethics of all other serving ADF and ex-serving community members.

The RANZCP would encourage any community members, or their families, who are experiencing emotional distress or mental health symptoms due to the media coverage and release of the findings of the Brereton Inquiry to contact a family member, friend, colleague, counsellor, psychologist, GP or psychiatrist for support.

Please also be aware of the 24-hour crisis support lines offered by Open Arms 1800 011 046 or Lifeline 131114.

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 +61 437 315 911, or email media@ranzcp.org.