ADF defends mental health services for veterans and the screening of recruits

The Australian military says it’s doing all it can to identify veterans at risk of suicide as they enter and leave the ADF.

The Australian Defence Force has defended its medical screening of recruits as it outlined a ‘confused picture’ of support available to veterans once they left the military.

Since 2001, nearly 300 Australians who were serving or did serve in the military died by suicide, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has found.

Separate research by the ADF has confirmed 118 serving members are believed to have taken their own lives since 2000.

A parliamentary committee is considering how to reduce suicides by Australian veterans.

The ADF has defended its screening of potential recruits for conditions or behaviours which would make them more likely to attempt suicide.

“There’s no blood test or something like that for mental health conditions,” Air Vice Marshal Tracy Smart told the committee.

“ are a robust process and individuals are required to sign a statutory declaration so I don’t know what else there is that could be done.”

The ADF said it was limited in terms of what it could legally do to weed out applicants.

“There’s three catch points in the recruiting process where a health professional will interview an applicant and a range of questions are asked,” vice chief of the ADF Vice Admiral Ray Griggs said.

“If someone’s not going to be truthful, there is no system on the planet that allows us to get past that.”

While breaking the stigma of seeking help is important for serving members, the ADF claimed a veteran could be overwhelmed by potential help once they left the military.

“When you are sitting and looking for help, there are a number of organisations, in fact one report has said over 3000 organisations, which are providing some support to veterans.” Rear Admiral Brett Wolski said.

“That is, around Australia, a very confused picture.”

In a submission to the committee, the Department of Veterans Affairs said it was rolling out mandatory Individual Transition Plans for anyone planning on leaving the ADF.

These plans would include coaching services tailored to the veteran and improving vocational rehabilitation for veterans with injuries and illnesses related to their service.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.