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How attitudes towards veterans have changed over the last 50 years

Why is ANZAC Day important to commemorate?

<p>ANZAC Day is commemorated annually to remember the fallen soldiers who gave their lives fighting in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. [Source: Shutterstock]</p>

ANZAC Day is commemorated annually to remember the fallen soldiers who gave their lives fighting in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. [Source: Shutterstock]

Key points

  • While ANZAC Day commemorates our fallen soldiers, understanding how we can help veterans could help improve their mental health
  • The prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder is 12 percent higher in veterans than in the general Australian population, according to data from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs
  • Help is available for veterans struggling with their mental health, from organisations such as Open Arms and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs

 

ANZAC Day is fast approaching and will be commemorated this Thursday, April 25, 2024. 

With almost 110 years having passed since the first Gallipoli landing in 1915, significant developments and understanding regarding the mental health of veterans means that better health care can be provided.

Almost 18 percent of ex-serving Australian Defence Force personnel experience post-traumatic stress disorder, compared to just under six percent in the general Australian population over 12 months, according to data from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. While anyone can develop PTSD after a traumatic event, these statistics highlight the increased prevalence in veterans after military service.

According to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, some symptoms of PTSD include:

  • having recurring nightmares or flashbacks of the traumatic event;
  • feeling alert and having trouble sleeping;
  • getting negative thoughts with feelings of anger or numbness.

PTSD was first registered as a diagnosis in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1980. While many people may have been experiencing PTSD long before it was formally identified, recognition of the condition means that appropriate treatment could be developed and used. 

However, for Australian veterans returning from the Vietnam War, the reception from this country was not welcoming and didn’t identify the sacrifice that many made for Australia. 

In Prime Minister John Howard’s speech to Vietnam veterans on August 18, 2006, he spoke of the change in perspective that people have towards Vietnam War veterans and how acknowledgement should have arrived much earlier. 

“[…] Let me say on behalf of a grateful nation, a nation which perhaps indeed, certainly was not as grateful and as respectful as it should have been 40 years ago, let me say to all of you as you leave Canberra and you go to your homes all around our country, that your nation honours you,” said Prime Minister Howard. 

An apology was also issued by the Returned and Services League in NSW in 2023 on Vietnam Veterans’ Day for the harm caused as ’some veterans were spurned by veterans of previous conflicts, and turned away and refused membership by some RSL sub-Branches in NSW’ decades earlier. 

With veterans at a higher risk of developing PTSD than their non-combat counterparts, according to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the shift in understanding the sacrifice of all soldiers can help returning military personnel get the help they deserve.

If you believe you might be experiencing PTSD, help is available. Contacting your local GP is a good first step, as you can work together to identify what you are struggling with and to identify the best method of treatment. 

Additionally, Open Arms is a service available for veterans and their families and provides services, such as free 24/7 counselling, peer support and group treatment programs. 

Such services could also benefit veterans with other mental health issues such as anxiety. Data suggests that personnel ‘who had ever served in the ADF were around twice as likely to report having an anxiety-related disorder as those who had never served,’ as reported on the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare website. 

For example, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs helps to provide veterans with ‘access to fully funded treatment of all mental health conditions.’

As well as providing funding for veterans seeking mental health assistance, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs can help Australian veterans with aged care support. 

While the Department of Health and Aged Care can assist with subsidised residential aged care, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs can help with aspects that the aged care home doesn’t cover. 

This can include paying eligible veterans a Basic Daily Fee, a range of health services and medical aids and appliances, according to information found on the Department of Veterans’ Affairs website. Assistance with the cost of medications is available for eligible veterans. 

As important as providing support to veterans is, ensuring that the younger generation understands and respects the sacrifice of veterans, their families and the soldiers who didn’t make it back home is a major reason to commemorate ANZAC Day.

While there are events for ANZAC Day being held all around the country, attending a service in person may not be possible if the proceedings bring back unwanted memories of wartime. However, the ABC News channel will be providing live coverage of major national service events and marches if you change your mind. 

If you are heading into your state’s capital to pay your respects in person, free public transportation for some services is available for eligible passengers. This includes people wearing service medals, people carrying a Department of Veterans’ Affairs identification card, and past and current military personnel wearing their uniform, as posted on the Adelaide Metro website. This is also applicable in Perth and Sydney, according to the Transperth and Transport NSW websites, respectively.

In Victoria, free public transport is also extended to school students, Australian Defence Force members, and Scouts and Guides on ANZAC Day with further information available on the Public Transport Victoria website. 

For more public transport information specific to your location, don’t forget to visit your state-specific transport website.

 

Where will you be watching the ANZAC Day memorial services?

Let the team at Talking Aged Care know and subscribe to the newsletter for weekly news, information and industry updates.

 

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