ADF members receive training in physical and mental resilience and in recognising health problems in themselves and others. They are encouraged to seek help early and have ready access to Defence health practitioners. If required, they may also self-refer to psychology and mental health services without having to see a doctor first. The ADF health and wellbeing portal provides information on a range of health issues and services for ADF members, ex-members and their families.
Periodic health assessments
Prior to 2011, ADF members received annual health assessments. These assessments involved the member answering a series of questions designed to identify any current symptoms or significant injuries or illness in the previous 12 months. Annual health assessments for non-specialist occupations were ceased in 2011 in favour of a revised comprehensive periodic health examination framework using an evidence-based approach.
ADF members now have periodic comprehensive health examinations. Depending on age, these occur every two to five years. Specialist occupations, like aircrew and divers, have more frequent examinations. Similarly, members in occupations where there are particular workplace exposures are monitored under formal occupational health surveillance programs.
During these examinations members are asked a wide range of health related questions and the examining health professional has access to the member’s full health record. The examinations are specifically designed to identify and manage any previously unidentified health issues. Members are required to make a declaration that their responses are accurate and to immediately report any changes in their medical status.
Deployment health assessments
Additional health checks are also conducted before and after deployments. Before a deployment, ADF personnel are given a card listing the likely health threats they may face during that deployment, so that they know what to look for and report to medical staff, either during the deployment or on return home. At the end of a deployment, before return to Australia, ADF personnel have a health check and psychological screen, looking for any concerns or signs of physical or mental health issues.
About three months after return to Australia, ADF personnel have a comprehensive health examination and another formal psychological screen. If at any time an issue is picked up, members are referred for follow up assessment. Defence is currently trialling additional opportunities to conduct mental health screening outside of formal health assessments or deployment related psychological screens.
Separation health assessments
Prior to separation from the ADF, members undergo a comprehensive health examination which includes formal psychological screening. This is an opportunity to check that all necessary treatment and any outstanding DVA claims have been completed. It also provides baseline information for future civilian health care providers. It aligns closely with the ADF post-discharge general practitioner health assessment, which is available to ex-serving ADF personnel.