The Returned Services League (RSL) is calling for more support for military veterans suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with fast rising numbers of young and older veterans affected by the condition.
Western Australian RSL branch Chief Executive Officer John McCourt said PTSD needed to be acknowledged and addressed to battle the growing incidence of mental health conditions among veterans.
“It’s a situation, mental health is a condition that we need to take very seriously, especially among the ex-service organisations,” Mr McCourt said.
“Giving them a hand up is always important. And if they’re down on their luck, if they have some issues, mental, environmental, economic, they deserve and need assistance.”
Mr McCourt said the mental health conditions were serious and came from veterans’ experiences in the military including death and trauma that created “some significant issues” appearing seven to 10 years after they left the military.
“There’s a whole range of mental health issues that go with defending your country and fighting in a war zone. It can go from long terms of exposure to difficult situations through to what’s happening these days,” he said.
Mr McCourt said mental health conditions needed to be treated like visible injuries, “like any other thing that affects the human body.”
He believed the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) were supporting veterans, with attitudes to mental health changing but more could be done to continue helping them.
“I’m very encouraged that the government and DVA are taking very seriously the growing incidence of mental health issues among veterans,” Mr McCourt said.
“We need to consider family and the community in making sure we look after the mental health and if they have a condition to address mental health in all veterans.
It comes as figures indicate veterans affected by PTSD were roughly between 10 and 20 per cent, according to The University of Melbourne-based Phoenix Australia.
Post-traumatic stress disorder currently affects an estimated 4,150 members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) at 8.3 per cent, compared to 5.2 per cent of the general population.
Veterans affairs minister Peter Tinley said WA had exceptional mental health support services and he would continue to advocate for all Western Australian veterans to get support for mental health.
“One of the great initiatives that has occurred at the federal level is the federal government, the Department of Veterans Affairs through the government has allowed anybody with any service, without making a claim to get access to mental health services,” he said.
“There is no end of support available to a veteran, both income support and health support.”
He said it was important for veterans to have local support after leaving the military.
“It’s really important that we approach it from a whole of community approach, not just to preserve of the commonwealth to actually undertake the sort of care that’s required,” Mr Tinley said.
“Organisations like the RSL and Legacy here in Western Australia are fundamentally important to assisting those veterans to not only come back into the community.”