New insights into the mental health of Australia’s defence force.
Australian defence personnel commit suicide at a lower rate than the general community but think about it more often, a new study has revealed.
The rate of alcohol abuse is also substantially lower in defence than in the general community.
Despite the findings of the detailed study of almost 30,000 defence force members there still remains areas of concern which need to be addressed, a Senate hearing has been told.
The study was conducted from early 2010 up to January this year and stemmed from a review of defence mental health by Professor David Dunt, who pointed to a shortage of solid data on prevalence of mental health problems among defence members.
The director-general of defence health, Major General Paul Alexander, said the study had given the defence force much better information than was available to comparable armed forces.
Rates of anxiety disorders, most commonly post-traumatic stress disorder, were slightly higher than the general community, he said.
Rates of mood disorders, including depression, were comparable but seemed to develop earlier among defence members, possibly because of exposure to stressful situations at a younger age.
"Our rates of suicide within the ADF are significantly lower than in the general community and that is matched for age, gender and for work environments," General Alexander told a Senate estimates committee in Canberra last week.
"Our rates of suicide ideation - in other words, people who are thinking of committing suicide or self harm within the organisation - are higher than the general community."
General Alexander said that finding was a matter of concern, although it did appear early intervention policies were helping.
Alcohol disease, as opposed to dangerous and binge drinking, also was less prevalent than in the general community and that made sense, he said.
"You can't really survive in an organisation like the ADF and perform to the standards in complex employment situations that we require of individuals and have a serious alcohol related illness."
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