Malcolm Turnbull

PM announces probe into veterans' mental health


The prime minister has commissioned a review into mental health services which could lead to better help for defence force members and veterans.

Early intervention to stop young defence personnel and war veterans slipping into a spiral of mental illness will be a priority as the federal government looks to overhaul services.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Thursday announced the National Mental Health Commission would look at the adequacy of suicide and self-harm prevention services for veterans in a targeted review.

Twelve trial sites for new services will be set up, including one for Townsville.

A summit in November will bring together company chief executives and public service leaders to improve jobs opportunities for ex-servicemen and women.

"We need to do a better job, right across the board," Mr Turnbull told reporters in Canberra.

"You can't solve a problem unless you own up to its existence."

Mr Turnbull lamented the reluctance among young defence personnel and veterans to seek help when confronted with the early symptoms of conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder because of stigma and fear it would be detrimental to careers.

"You've got to be able to have a culture in your organisation where if people do have or are concerned about mental illness that they can raise it and get help in a way that doesn't disadvantage them," he said.

Mr Turnbull acknowledged that many veterans struggled to gain employment once they leave the defence force.

The message of November's summit would not be that employers have a patriotic obligation to hire ex-military personnel.

"The message is going to be there is an enormous wealth of human talent here with unique experience and you should be taking advantage of it," he said.

Some veterans struggled to develop attractive resumes because a lot of their service involved classified information.

The average service is 7.5 years.

Mr Turnbull had round table talks with defence and veterans groups on Thursday alongside Veterans Affairs Minister Dan Tehan and Health Minister Sussan Ley.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten offered bipartisan support to improve the mental health outcomes for those who serve the country.

"We will work with the government because nothing is more important than making sure that our veterans, people who put their life on the line for their country, get the sort of backup and support back here once they return," he told reporters in Melbourne.

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