Photo courtesy Ben Quilty. The ADF studied the prevalence rates of the most common mental disorders, optimal cut-offs for relevant mental health measures, and the impact of occupational stressors. ADF prevalence rates were compared to an Australian sample matched for age, sex and employment. Nearly 49% of ADF current serving members participated in the study between April 2010 and January 2011. This study is an outcome of the ADF mental health reform program initiated in 2009 and will inform the next generation of the ADF mental health strategy. A copy of the report may be downloaded by clicking on: 2010 ADF Mental Health & Well being Study Executive Report
Over the past decade, the ADF has successfully and continuously maintained its high tempo of operations. We should individually and collectively take pride in the knowledge that ADF personnel have deployed around the world on diverse missions, including combat operations in the Middle East as well as response to natural disasters, border protection operations and assistance to communities in remote regions. Within the current ADF workforce almost half have deployed multiple times, and in a12-month period up to 12,000 members of the ADF will be in the operational deployment cycle – that is, preparing, deploying or transitioning home. This high operational tempo not only exposes ADF personnel to a range of occupational risks and hazards, but also places significant pressure on their families and ADF support systems.
The 2010 ADF Mental Health Prevalence and Wellbeing Study is a major deliverable of the ADF Mental Health Reform Program, as it provides the foundation for the next generation of the ADF mental health strategy and future evaluation of mental health interventions and services. The study shows us that the 12-month rate of mental disorder in the ADF is very similar to that of a matched sample from the Australian community, but that the ADF has a different profile which reflects the unique demands of service. The results indicate a need for targeted programs to respond to post-traumatic stress and depression.
Photo courtesy Ben Quilty. The data have also provided important information on how to further enhance mental health literacy, address stigma and break down barriers to seeking care. Once thoroughly analysed, the data will help us understand a range of occupational issues such as the impact of social support, health risk behaviours, and quality of life and family relationships. This further analysis will take place over the next 12 months.
My thanks go to every serving member who took the time to complete the survey, answering at times intensely personal questions. I applaud you for your willingness to assist in improving mental health and well being in the ADF. Your contribution will help us to improve services for yourselves, your mates and all serving personnel.
I would also like to thank the research teams who collaborated with Joint Health Command and the experts who assisted in the development and analysis of the survey. This landmark study into Australian military mental health reflects Defence’s ongoing commitment to the development of a comprehensive approach to improving the mental fitness of ADF personnel. It will inform our health service development and planning for comprehensive, coordinated and customized care into the future.
Air Marshal Mark Binskin, AO.
Vice Chief of the Defence Force