The establishment of the MHS by the ADF in 2002 was far-sighted. The Strategy compares favourably with mental health strategies in other Australian workplaces. It also compares well with what exists in military forces in other countries. Some of these military forces have mental health policies and programs in place, particularly in relation to PTSD. Others have individual mental health promotion programs in place however they do not have the suite of programs at a whole of forces level that exists in the ADF.
The enthusiasm and commitment of ADF members in delivering these programs adds to the ongoing achievement of the MHS. This has meant that programs are well received by members. Having made this fundamental point, it is necessary to consider the problems and barriers to the full success of the MHS and how these can be identified and overcome, leading to improvements of the MHS in the future. Throughout the review it was clear that Defence is committed to looking after the mental health of its members and further enhancing the effectiveness of the ADF Mental Health Strategy.
While the ADF’s Mental Health Strategy compares favourably with mental health strategies in military forces in other countries and other Australian workplaces, its rollout has been patchy and has depended too much on the enthusiasm and commitment of ADF regional mental health providers. This situation has reflected the lack of proper funding for both the Directorate of Mental Health and the Regional Mental Health Teams.
The Mental Health Strategy also needs further development for it truly to be a Strategy, rather than a small number of specific programs as at present. New conceptualisation would allow the development of the next evolution of the strategy, and the inclusion of even more innovative programs like a continuum of resilience training and mental health literacy. This evolution of the strategy will need proper marketing if it is to have maximum impact on members, to be evidence-based in general and to be evaluated where appropriate.