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Media release

Wellbeing of Australian veterans takes centre stage at Melbourne launch

11 December 2014

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is honoured to be joined by Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Senator the Honourable Michael Ronaldson for the launch of its gplearning activity Working with veterans with mental health problems in Melbourne today.

For many Australian Defence Force (ADF) veterans, military service provides a strong sense of purpose, meaning and identity but it can also mean exposure to traumatic events and other occupational stresses that lead to the development of mental health, relationship and family problems.

RACGP President, Dr Frank R Jones said GPs are in an ideal position to provide veterans with quality care and assist with recovery, but they must understand the unique experiences of veterans; an outcome the Working with veterans with mental health problems aims to achieve.

“Over the past decade, members of the ADF have been involved in a significant number of operations ranging from overseas conflicts to international peacekeeping, Australian border protection and natural disaster relief,” said Dr Jones.

“The experience of ADF veterans is unique, with many exposed to traumatic events a civilian may never truly understand, such as inhumane treatment of others or threats to one’s own safety.

“GPs are frontline in the effort to curb mental health disorders in Australia’s returned veterans and must be alert to the unique mental, physical and cognitive health issues that often present as a consequence of trauma.

“The gplearning activity we are launching today will inform GPs about practical strategies to assist veterans, with a focus on early intervention to promote recovery from mental health problems.”

Working with veterans with mental health problems addresses the military experience of contemporary and older veterans, including issues relating to transition from military to civilian life and common mental health disorders.

It also outlines practical strategies for GPs to engage with veterans and their families and provides a suite of resources for GPs to access when treating veteran patients.

“It is crucial that Australia’s returning veterans are appropriately supported as they transition from deployment back into civilian life, and general practice should be at the epicenter of any support network,” said Dr Jones.

“Mental health disorders may not emerge until many years after a traumatic event and it is important veterans are able to access the help they need if and when they need it.”

Working with veterans with mental health problems is divided in four sections including the veteran experience; veteran mental health and related issues; practical strategies to assist veterans with mental health problems and helpful veteran-related services.

The activity was developed by the RACGP in collaboration with the Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health (ACPMH), and funded by the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA).

The RACGP is committed to ensuring the Australian veterans are appropriately supported and will continue to work in partnership with the ACPMH and DVA to achieve this.