Veterans’ mental health problems are as varied as the conflicts in which our ex-servicemen and women have served. Health practitioners may treat an ex-prisoner of war from World War II, a Vietnam veteran, a woman in her thirties who served as a peacekeeper in Rwanda and East Timor or a soldier having served multiple deployments in Afghanistan. While their problems and the treatment they receive may be unique, veterans share a common military culture. Although it has certainly changed over the years, an understanding of this culture will greatly assist all health practitioners provide the most appropriate treatment for veterans. At the same time, practitioners can be reassured that they can help veterans with mental health problems with much the same interventions as they use to help the general community, with an approach tailored to the veterans’ needs.
Society’s understanding and acceptance of mental health problems has improved dramatically since the men and women who served in World War I returned home to the care of dedicated repatriation hospitals. Views about where to provide mental health treatment have changed considerably since then. Like all of us, veterans benefit from being treated in the community, close to family and friends with as little disruption as possible to their daily routines.
This book provides information and advice to practitioners in all health services in recognising, assessing and treating veterans’ common mental health problems. It will also increase practitioners’ awareness and knowledge of more specialist mental health advice, services and referral options. Originally published in 2007, this publication has now been updated, drawing upon the latest Australian and international best practice guidelines.
Busy health practitioners can dip in and out of the different sections in this book, seeking information on, for example, anger management or to review treatment options for panic disorder or problem drinking. A tailored section for General Practitioners comprises brief summaries outlining screening, patient advice, evidence-based treatment and referral options. Regardless of particular interest or specialty, we strongly encourage everyone to read ‘Understanding the Veteran Experience’ in Part 1 for a comprehensive background into military experience and its potential impact on mental health and on families.
While there is a range of resources available to practitioners on specific mental health problems, we believe that this book is unique in bringing together information on the assessment and treatment of veterans’ common mental health problems. We would like to thank the dedicated team of mental health professionals who produced this resource, as well as the working practitioners and members of the veteran community who reviewed it. Their insightful comments have served to strengthen the information provided.
The mental health of the servicemen and women who served our country is everybody’s business. We are pleased to provide the foreword to this excellent resource and strongly commend it to all health practitioners with an interest in mental health.
Dr Grame Killer AO
Principal Medical Adviser
Department of Veterans' Affairs
Major General Mark Kelly AO, DSC