“It's okay to put your hand up, it's not a sign of weakness. In fact it takes a great deal of moral courage to say, 'I've got a problem.'”
Any individual who is serving or has served in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is considered a veteran, whether their service was undertaken within Australia or overseas. All veterans with at least one day permanent or continuous full-time service and their immediate family members are entitled to free and confidential mental health support services for life.
The prevalence of mental health issues in the Defence population is similar to the Australian general population. Some personnel in Defence may develop mental health problems whether or not they have operational deployment experiences. However, most people in Defence do not develop mental health problems or mental illness during their career. At the same time, veterans who do experience mental health problems, mental illness, or suicidal thoughts, can and do lead meaningful and productive lives. Seeking help early and engaging in effective treatment can lead to improved outcomes and prevent future problems.
Defence recognises that to achieve its mission to defend Australia and its national interests, ADF personnel are often put in harm's way and as a result, can be exposed to traumatic situations. The risks associated with this service include the risk of psychological harm.
Symptoms may not necessarily be extreme and may be experienced by veterans themselves, their family members, or both. These symptoms may include feeling down for an extended period, feeling anxious in a variety of situations, reduced interest in social interaction and activities that used to be fun, and relationship issues. The sooner individuals take action, the more likely they are to recover. Early recognition and treatment of mental health issues is important for everyone.
Transitioning to civilian life can also be challenging for some veterans. Finding suitable work, adjusting to life after service, and coping with past experiences can be difficult and confronting. However, approximately 5,500 ADF personnel transition out each year with little difficulty.
When people leave Defence, there are many organisations that are committed to supporting them to successfully move on to the next stage in their lives. There are 24-hour help lines, chat forums and online information available through Defence, Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling, major mental health organisations, and veteran-specific support organisations.
Strengthening your overall mental health and wellbeing is one of the most positive things you can do. There are ideas on how to do this in the meaningful life section of this website. We also have information on how to seek support. If you or someone you know is struggling, it is important to take action now. The sooner you begin your recovery, the sooner you will regain your mental wellbeing.