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Report: Almost Half of Australian Military Veterans Suffer Mental Health Conditions


FILE - A veteran is pushed in a wheelchair during the ANZAC Day parade, in Sydney, Friday, April 25, 2014, commemorating the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) during the First World War.

Almost half of the Australian military personnel who've left the defense force in the past five years have some sort of mental disorder, according to a new study. The Australian government says it is the most comprehensive study ever undertaken in Australia of the effect of military service on the mental, physical and social health of veterans, including those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For many former Australian service men and women, adapting to civilian life can be tough. According to a new study by the Department of Veterans' Affairs, about half suffer debilitating conditions that include anxiety and depression. Some retired soldiers, however, believe the true number of those affected is much higher.

Robin Lee was in the Australian army for 14 years, and served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder before he left the military in 2015.

He says the system for helping veterans with mental health issues is poor.
"These men are serving, getting problems," said Lee. "They know they have problems but they have to go through a recognition process that is just disgusting. (It has) been mishandled at every level."

The Australian government acknowledges that leaving the military can be a "daunting and challenging experience."

The Veterans Affairs minister is Darren Chester.

"The government is determined to put veterans and their health at the center of everything we do," said Chester. "We are putting veterans first, we are putting veterans' families first. In a nutshell, the research we are releasing today is confirming that we are heading in the right direction but more needs to be done to assist veterans and their families during the critical transitional period to civilian life."

Ministers say that free treatment for any mental health condition is now available to all veterans. The research into the mental and physical impact of Australia's military service is continuing. Six further reports will be released by the end of next year.

The Australian Defense Force comprises the Navy, Army and Air Force. It has more than 100,000 personnel, including permanent military personnel, reservists and civilian employees.

This story was written by VOA's Phil Mercer in Sydney.

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