TODAY is World Mental Health Day and Australians are urged to look out for their mates who may be struggling, encourage them to seek support and treatment as early as possible as well as taking a moment to recognise those activities we all do to manage our mental health.
Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel Darren Chester said the Government had made mental health a priority, including for our Australian Defence Force Personnel (ADF), veterans and their families.
"Mental health is everyone's business and we all have a part to play — check in on a mate, ask them if they are ok, have a conversation and help them get the support they need," Mr Chester said.
"This message is particularly poignant with events this year, such as the bushfires, floods and pandemic, affecting our mental health. My message is that help is available and if you are struggling, please reach out for help.
"All current and former ADF personnel and their families have access to free and confidential counselling and support through Open Arms — Veterans & Families Counselling (Open Arms). This life-saving support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 1800 011 046.
"It is also a time to reflect on those things we can all do to manage our mental health — eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep, being connected and finding strategies to manage our stress.
"There are also valuable tools, apps and information on the Open Arms website for people seeking support for themselves and others, including help on how to start a conversation with someone you may be worried about."
Through the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA), veterans can access free mental health care for any mental health condition. This is available for life and doesn't need to be linked to ADF service.
ADF members and their families can contact the 24/7 Defence Family Helpline on 1800 624 608 for advice, support, and connection with their local community. The Helpline is staffed by qualified human services professionals, including social workers and psychologists. Further support for ADF members and their families is available by contacting the local Garrison Health Centre or IMSICK on 1800 467 425, ADF All Hours Support Line on 1800 628 036, and Defence Employee Assistance Program (including the Reserve Assistance Program) on 1300 687 327.
"The Government's recent Budget provided and additional $101.7 million to further increase mental health support services for our veterans and their families," Mr Chester said.
"This includes an investment of $94.3 million to increase fees paid to psychiatrists, allied mental health, social workers and community nursing providers, and to train psychiatry registrars in veteran and military mental health.
"Open Arms will receive a further $5 million to expand the successful Community and Peer Program, which is about mates helping their mates. It will see Peer Workers in Maryborough, Queensland, and Nowra, New South Wales, to support the veteran community."
Open Arms was founded by our Vietnam veterans and it is their enduring legacy to ensure all Australian veterans and their families have access to free mental health support, including to programs such as the Community and Peer Program.
$2.4 million has been allocated to the Coordinated Veterans' Care program to expand its eligibility to Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) Veteran White Card holders with a chronic mental health condition accepted as being related to their military service.
"This funding means that more veterans with chronic mental health concerns will be supported, providing them with greater access to coordinated care and treatment of their mental health conditions," Mr Chester said.
"The Government is committed to ensuring ADF members, veterans and their families have access to the right support, at the right time, especially those who are vulnerable or at risk."
Open Arms 1800 011 046 and www.openarms.gov.au