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Wednesday 26 June, 2019
The Hon Darren Chester MP
Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel
26 June 2019
VETERAN MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLBEING SUMMIT STATEMENT
Thank you for your attendance here today.
You’re here because you have expert knowledge in mental health, suicide prevention and the potential impacts of military service on individuals and their families.
Today’s an opportunity to take stock of where we are regarding mental wellbeing of veterans and serving ADF personnel… and where we want to be in the future.
This is your chance to help set the veterans’ mental health agenda for this term of the Morrison Government.
It’s an opportunity for a full and frank discussion about what is working, what isn’t working, our knowledge or research gaps… and what else we can be doing together to improve mental wellbeing.
The Prime Minister has made it clear that mental health will be a core focus of this government and he has already announced several initiatives aimed at suicide prevention and mental wellbeing in the wider community.
Every suicide is a tragedy, especially for families and loved ones left behind.
It is a sad and complex issue which costs Australia more than 3000 people each year and of particular concern to us, here today, is the estimated 30 veterans who take their own life each year.
When it comes to veteran suicide, the only acceptable number for me is zero – the only acceptable number for the Australian people is zero.
As a government we are determined to put veterans and their families first.
I’m working with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Australian Defence Force leaders, ex-service organisations, medical professionals and the community to improve mental health outcomes for veterans and their families.
We are spending more than $230 million per year to improve veteran mental health and we are working with defence to improve resilience among serving members.
There have been a number of significant inquiries, research and reports which have led to significant changes and the key question today is, what else can we do that will make a practical difference?
We have introduced free mental health care for veterans, expanded the Open Arms counselling service and we are transforming DVA to reduce claim times and adopt a more beneficial approach to veterans and their families.
I believe we are heading in the right direction but there’s always more to be done… particularly when it comes to communicating the real situation and the benefits of defence service and the extent of veterans support in Australia.
Today is the first stage of a process which will include further meetings with veterans, family members and state ministers as we finalise our new mental health strategy before the end of the year.
I would like to invite Air Vice-Marshal Tracy Smart to say a few words from a Defence Force perspective.
Free and confidential help is available through Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling, for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Help is available 24/7 by calling 1800 011 046.
Rachel Tharratt: 02 6277 7820
DVA Media: 02 6289 6466
Office of the Hon. Darren Chester, Canberra ACT