Veteran Mental Health Outreach Project

The current challenges facing treatment of veterans with mental health issues have been well-documented. The Veteran Mental Health Outreach Project promotes an assertive outreach service delivery model for the management and rehabilitation of mental health conditions experienced in the veteran and ex-service community. There is strong interest for use of outreach models in veteran mental health care within the veteran community.

The incidence and prevalence of mental health conditions and suicidality experienced among Australia’s veteran and ex-service communities has been highlighted through a number of recent inquiries and reviews by Government and mental health authorities. The findings and recommendations of these reviews indicate that the current preventative, early intervention model targeted to those at risk, together with a holistic response to improve the overall welfare of veterans is the most appropriate approach to reduce the rate of suicide amongst veterans. (The Constant Battle)

Access to mental health services by veterans was also perceived as a critical component in suicide prevention.

The Mental Health Prevalence and Wellbeing Study (MHPW) found that more than half of the ADF population sampled had experienced mental illness in their lifetime, significantly higher compared to the general population. In March 2015, DVA reported it was supporting 147,318 veterans, with 49,668 of these having accepted mental disorders.

Not all veterans are able to access traditional community based mental health services. There are veterans that are isolated either socially or geographically who suffer mental health conditions.

The NMHC report recommended addressing the needs of younger veterans following the release of the first AIHW results which identified this cohort as a vulnerable group. The NMHC urged 'as a matter of priority' that the Minister of Veterans' Affairs liaise with the Minister for Health 'to oversee the development of strategies, utilising a co-design process, to engage and support former members of the ADF aged 18-29 years, who have left the service in the last 5 years and who could be at risk of suicide or self-harm'.

The Remembrance Foundation is working with the Department of Health and the Department of Veteran Affairs to further the Veteran Mental Health Outreach project.

This model will allow health providers to reach out and provide home-based services. This project has been developed based on co-design principles combining lived experiences and best practice models of care in other health sectors.

Currently the Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA) provides community care through general practitioner networks and the Veterans and Veterans Family Counselling Service (VVCS). However, these services only provide very limited home-based outreach services, especially in the area of mental health and for young contemporary veterans. The assertive outreach model could improve access to care for younger contemporary veterans who reside in rural and remote locations.

The use of an assertive outreach capability for the management of veteran mental health conditions is a pioneering innovation both domestically and for veteran health practices in the international arena. 
Key goals of the Veteran Mental Health Outreach model include:

  • The use of an outreach capability to support treatment and access to care for veterans who are not engaging in current treatment options, including mental health services.
  • The use of a specialised mental health outreach capability to provide time critical, reactive intervention in response to mental health deterioration and crisis.
  • Using home visitation to provide better engagement and support to families of veterans diagnosed with mental health conditions.
  • To innovate and supplement rehabilitation of mental health conditions with the aim of preventing mental health deterioration and suicide.
  • Greater engagement with other community-based services where appropriate.
  • Reduction in hospital admissions and decreased length of stay during hospitalisation.
  • Improved mental health outcomes through assertive outreach service delivery both through face-to-face and augmented by tele-health visitation.
  • Innovation and transformation of models of care for mental health conditions.
  • Proactive and assertive bio-psycho-social rehabilitation of mental health conditions.