Veterans’ Health Week

Ed, Australia’s veterans, war widows, currently serving personnel and their families will come together in cities and towns across the country over the next nine days to participate in the annual Veterans’ Health Week (VHW), 10–18 October 2015. This year, the focus of VHW is on mental wellbeing—a priority for the Australian Government—and includes activities ranging from early morning surfing and yoga classes to golf days, health expos and health information sessions. To coincide with the beginning of VHW and World Mental Health Day, today I am releasing the Government’s Social Health Strategy 2015–2023 for the Veteran and Ex-service Community and Mental and Social Health Action Plan. These documents outline support for ex-service personnel and their families who may be experiencing mental health issues, and what the Government is doing to improve their circumstances. Key initiatives include: • non-liability health care arrangements under which the Department of Veterans’ Affairs can pay for treatment for a range of mental health conditions—such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, alcohol and substance use disorders—whatever the cause. That is, the condition does not have to be service-related • online resources and smartphone apps, designed to be used in conjunction with clinical support, to help current and former serving Australian Defence Force personnel to build their resilience, combat suicidal thoughts and manage their alcohol consumption (available from www.at-ease.dva.gov.au) • the Men’s Health Peer Education Programme, which trains volunteers to provide health information to their veteran peers, to encourage better lifestyle choices. This year’s VHW—my first as Minister for Veterans’ Affairs—is set to be the largest in the event’s history, with about 220 activities around Australia and an anticipated attendance of 17,000 members of the veteran and defence communities. When reporting on veteran-related issues, I encourage you to include contact details for the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS), which provides free and confidential specialist counselling and support services for ex-service personnel and their families 24/7 on tel 1800 011 046. Please visit http://www.dva.gov.au/health-and-wellbeing/health-events/veterans-health-week-2015 for more information about events in your region. Stuart Robert MP, Minister for Veterans Affairs