Support for young veterans: report

Marnie Banger
(Australian Associated Press)


Young people who leave the defence force should have access to unique centres to help them transition into life outside the military, according to a new report.

The recommendation comes as young ex-servicemen, aged 18 to 24, are twice as likely to die by suicide than other men their age.

Young veterans are also at a higher risk of experiencing depression, panic attacks and alcohol-use disorders, according to recent research.

A policy paper released on Wednesday by Orygen, the National Centre for Excellence in Youth Mental Health, has set out to tackle that disparity by advising on ways to improve the wellbeing of young former defence personnel.

The authors spoke with such young people and mental health service providers.

Introducing mandatory, comprehensive psychological and social assessments of every young person leaving the force is among the report’s recommendations.

Such reviews could identify particular risk factors individuals will face and connect them with services relevant to them, the report states.

Establishing ‘hubs’ to help young veterans transition to their non-military lives, targeted specifically to them and created with their input, has also been proposed.

Improving engagement with young people in the Australian Defence Force, starting from when they join, has also been recommended.

“There are many opportunities to improve the transition process within the ADF for young serving personnel, and the relevance, acceptability and level of post-transition support,” the report says.

Senior Orygen researcher Simon Rice said there are a number of reasons why younger veterans may be more at risk of experiencing mental health issues.

Traumatic events they may have faced or being forced to leave the defence force are among them, as are the loss of some supports.

“The loss of the protective factors the military provides, including social support, and a sense of belonging and identity, can affect the mental health of young ex-serving personnel, leaving many feeling unprepared for civilian life,” Mr Rice said.

Associate Professor Darryl Wade from Phoenix Australia, a post traumatic mental health centre, said it’s important to take a proactive approach with young ex-service people.

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