Soldiers with mental health issues deserve more funding

Money spent commemorating dead soldiers could be put to better use.

Soldiers need help, not monuments

Anzac Day is extremely important in the Australian psyche and allows us a chance to remember all of those who gave their lives in the service of our country.

However, a $500-million expansion of the Australian War Memorial has drawn criticism for wasting money that would be better spent on rehabilitating soldiers battling the mental demons they often bring back from war zones.

Commentator Paul Daley, writing for The Guardian, explains that not even Germany or Great Britain have spent as much money as Australia in commemorating World War I.

“From 2014 to 2028, when the (still sketchy) proposed war memorial addition would be funded, Australia will have committed or spent at least $1.1 billon (in today’s terms) on new war commemoration projects, presumably excluding recurrent funding of the memorial itself,” Mr Daley writes in his column.

“This money would surely be far better spent on the living, not least the many hundreds of veterans, their partners and children, whose suffering is compounded by their struggles to win medical acknowledgment of, and government compensation for, service-related injury.”

Earlier this month, the government released the findings of research into how being in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) impacts the lives of military personnel.

It found that people leaving the ADF have much higher rates of mental disorders like anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and drug and alcohol dependence.

Nearly half (46 per cent) of veterans who left the ADF within five years experienced a mental disorder, the report said.

The most common problem is anxiety, with one in three veterans saying they experienced symptoms. The other common illnesses were post-traumatic stress disorder (nearly 18 per cent), panic attacks (17 per cent) and depression (nearly 12 per cent).

One in five veterans had experienced suicidal thoughts, plans or attempts, the report found.

The report also found that nearly 13 per cent of returned service personnel were drinking at dangerous levels.

What do you think? Should the Government spend more money on the health and wellbeing of soldiers and former soldiers, or build more monuments commemorating their sacrifice?

The Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) provides free and confidential counselling and support for current and former ADF members and their families. They can be reached 24/7 on 1800 011 046 or visit the VVCS website for more information.

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    COMMENTS

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    Rosret
    25th Apr 2018
    7:38am
    Something was really wrong with the Vietnam War. PTSD, depression, recurring skin rashes, spouses miscarriages.
    I think there is a whole lot more to the weaponry, the effects of guerrilla warfare etc. that was so detrimental to those who served. My heart goes out to them and those who live with their memories every day.
    MICK
    26th Apr 2018
    1:27am
    Called Agent Orange. The military brass knew what this stuff did but allowed our soldiers to be sprayed with it.
    My brother in law was sent to clean out tanks which had this death fluid in it. He is now deceased.
    miker
    25th Apr 2018
    7:50am
    I have had panic attacks and found it terrifying. I cant begin to imagine what it must be like to be in a war zone. It is stupefying that our Veterans are not cared for much better especially if as a result of their service they incur panic attacks. Callous treatment indeed
    Star Trekker
    25th Apr 2018
    9:10am
    A friend of mine lost her husband to suicide after he came back from serving in East Timor. Our Military need more care than they are getting. So many lives lost during and after wars. Help them before another building is built.
    Heskwith
    25th Apr 2018
    9:15am
    I agree, that the buildings have gone far enough; new projects should be put on hold, and funds allocated instead, after careful planning and research, for long term assistance to veterans and families.
    MICK
    26th Apr 2018
    1:29am
    Monuments can wait until the last of our vets have passed on. Until then we need to care for men who came back with broken minds and bodies now riddled with cancers.
    The reality is our governing class are miserable bastards who have no empathy for those THEY sent to war.
    Charlie
    25th Apr 2018
    9:16am
    Every soldier in history must have suffered post war mental problems. Is there really a treatment for it. What is seen cannot be unseen.

    The whole service life itself (without any combat) is mentally damaging for some sensitive types, its just that we have raised the bar on what is acceptable.

    In my youth it was possible to do a service apprenticeship at 16yo . There are some people who are making damages claims (not from being attacked by the enemy) but from the way they were treated by their "friends" and by senior ranks.

    It is probably not even possible to run a defence force, without people having to endure harsh treatment both mental and physical and being tolerant to it.
    Rosret
    25th Apr 2018
    11:51am
    Actually you can treat PTSD.
    No, you can't forget but you can stop the never ending "repeat" button.
    You can also train the brain to win and become the victor and not the victim. The right treatment can help. :)
    MICK
    26th Apr 2018
    1:31am
    Not every war had Agent Orange. Ok...WW1 had mustard gas but not sure you can compare the effects of spraying Agent Orange from a plane and lobbing a bomb into the enemy camp.
    Nerk
    25th Apr 2018
    9:26am
    Charity and compassion begins home yet our diggers are forgotten, many live on the street, most have post traumatic stress, many have committed suicide, I think it boils down to the $ $ $, the government stretches out any compensation for years and waits until they are nearly all gone then it helps, they would have been better off returning on a leaky boat or as a terrorist at least they'd get all the medical help available.
    MICK
    26th Apr 2018
    1:31am
    Here here.
    4b2
    25th Apr 2018
    10:01am
    Politicians take every opportunity for photo shoots with the returning dead troops from wars Australia has no interest in the defence of our Country. They also can find millions of tax payers money to build and expand the monuments for the dead, but cant find much to help the walking wounded. Except for the returned servicemen who have won medals I cant remember a polly who attended a return of troops. Why do we need charities to support our returned service people when it is the responsibility of the Government as a duty of care to find the taxpayers funds to provide this support. After all they take the credit for the victories as protecting Australia. What a load of BS. Look after the returned men and women, the dead are remembered with all the respect of the Nation with or without monuments they will never see. As a returned vet I have the right to express my opionion.
    MICK
    26th Apr 2018
    1:32am
    Many of us feel the same way. Well said.
    Hardworker
    25th Apr 2018
    10:15am
    I totally agree 4b2. It's amazing how all this money can be found to honour the dead but there is not enough for the walking wounded. They need so much help, not just with PTSD and their physical wounds but with finding appropriate work when they get out of the Defence Force. It's about time politicians got their priorities right instead of looking for pats on the back for their big egos. By all means honour the dead but only after we look after the living.
    Nan Norma
    25th Apr 2018
    11:14am
    Anzac Day is a one-day event, but for returned soldiers suffering PTSD, it is an everyday event they are forced to live with every day of their lives. Many do not get the help and support they need because few people can relate to it. It is impossible to describe. It is worse than any physical illness. Spending more money on memorials won't bring back the dead. But we can help the living and their families. The politicians should put away their finery and start putting their (taxpayers) money where their mouths are and start supporting the service people they give lip service to once a year.
    suzyq
    25th Apr 2018
    11:37am
    As the wife of a returned serviceman, may I say it is not just the servicemen that suffer, the whole family suffers the stress from not knowing what is going to happen next. Our children are adults, but have physiological problems from living with someone with PTSD. The government need to get their priorities right. Look after their returned serviceman, before importing people that will never defend our country, in fact fight against it from within.
    Rosret
    25th Apr 2018
    11:44am
    The RSL and our council jointly paid for a footpath leading to a flag pole that is used for 1 hour twice a year and scared a beautiful natural headland in the process. My family who served in the last 2 wars were have turned in their graves to see the desecration of such a beautiful landscape.

    Then in the next weeks local newsletter the RSL was crying poor!

    The National War Museum is quite different though and they are making a fantastic historical 'museum' and memorial of Australian's history of war.
    Anonymous
    25th Apr 2018
    3:43pm
    So true, suzyq. My late father was a naval commando in WW2, and he inflicted great violence upon his sons. I endured this for over 25 years, and it has left me very damaged - with PTSD. (I also suffer from other mental illnesses.) As for " Look after their returned serviceman, before importing people that will never defend our country, in fact fight against it from within", I couldn't agree more! We should be stopping ALL immigration NOW!
    Rosret
    25th Apr 2018
    4:16pm
    Sorry to hear that Knows-a-lot.
    I wish your mother and extended family could have protected you.
    mIKER
    25th Apr 2018
    11:34am
    Building an Education Centre at Villers-Bretonneux for $99.6 million is another appalling example of putting some misplaced concept that our war record deserves higher visibility in Northern France than spending it on those whose lives have been shattered for the betterment of their fellow Australians.
    Naming an education centre after Australia’s greatest soldier Sir John Monash does not ameliorate the fact that this is a colossal waste of money. Instead the money should have been spent in Australia, rehabilitating uniformed members of all services suffering from mental and physical disabilities resulting from their service for their country or community.
    Members of the Defence Force, the Police, Fire Departments and Paramedics wear a uniform to distinguish them in conducting their duty, encountering trauma and worse in everyday events.
    Assisting these everyday heroes should therefore be our national priority. Too frequently their conditions are ignored or treated almost with contempt by officials more interested in saving money than the restoration of the subject’s well-being.
    Sadly former Prime Minister Abbott, who instigated the project, put faux patriotism ahead of the veterans of all services. Lest we forget.. the living.
    Maggie
    25th Apr 2018
    1:13pm
    I think that those of us (and it seems there are plenty) who feel that the seemingly endless money available for war memorials etc. could be put to better use, should raise our voices loud and clear. Can we put our heads and hearts together and get the ball rolling?

    I honestly believe that if those wonderfully brave people who gave their lives in war were able to speak they would urge us on to look after the living.

    We will not forget them - we can honour their memory with a meaningful and productive change. I think they would like that better.

    25th Apr 2018
    3:37pm
    OK - "Lest We Forget". But for God's sake, government, support our returnees to the hilt! These heroes put their lives on the line for Australia, and deserve all the help they need. Alas, the scumbag Lieberal government is more interested in beancounting...
    MICK
    26th Apr 2018
    1:34am
    And tax cuts for the wealthy!
    Soapbox Diva
    25th Apr 2018
    4:41pm
    Once again our government have priorities arse-about. There seems to be a chronic waste of taxpayers money for 'show'. Our servicemen and women deserve a lot better than they are getting. They put their life on the line for our freedom. The politicians certainly don't!!! Spend that money on helping the living. I'm sure the dead won't mind.
    MICK
    26th Apr 2018
    1:25am
    Using our youth as war fodder is wrong. Bringing them back home and then refusing to look after them is despicable and is what Australians have come to expect from our elected representatives. Apparently it costs too much and tax cuts for the rich are more important!

    I hope that the next war we are pulled into results in Australian youth telling whoever is in government to go fight their own war or send their own children to the front line. End of war.