Budget 2017: War veterans mental health package

The government will announce $350 million for veterans’ mental health services in tonight’s Budget.

Veteran’s Affairs Minister Dan Tehan said the package was one of the biggest funding injections in decades and would target a range of mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression.

Tamworth Young Veteran coordinator Rebecca Shaw said anything that goes towards highlighting mental health for veterans was a positive, but questioned how the funding would be allocated.

“My concern is for regional and remote vets,” Mrs Shaw said.

“How we access funding and support, that’s what can be difficult in times of crisis.”

Mrs Shaw and her husband, who is also a veteran, have both battled mental health problems. While Tamworth has a veteran’s mental health specialist, Mrs Shaw said there was up to a four month wait for an appointment.

“The closest other one was down in Newcastle,” she said

“It’s easier for most of us to go to Newcastle, because we can get an appointment very quickly. You don’t want to be waiting four months in a time of crisis.”

She’d also like to see the referral process streamlined for veterans seeking help with their mental health, because “the first step is the hardest”.

“I’d love to see a one-stop shop for veterans’ health set up in Tamworth – somewhere with counselling, a psychologist, drug and alcohol screening all in the one place,” she said.

‘They need our support’

Tamworth RSL sub-branch president Bob Chapman said he’s amazed by the amount of young veterans struggling with their mental health, and wanted them to have access to all the help they needed.

“It’s totally different conditions to the Vietnam vets, we seemed to go on without it affecting us until about 40 years of age,” Mr Chapman said.

“These days, many of these young guys and girls are affect right out of the cause.

“We’ve definitely got to look after them. The government is putting their money where their mouth is and I think it’s wonderful.

“The main thing when it comes to looking after the health and welfare of veterans is to ensure it is well and truly supervised, controlled and done professionally.”

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