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Annual Report 2013-14

Feature articles

Improving the quality of mental health care in the ADF


The Australian Defence Force Centre for Mental Health

Midshot photograph of three members of the Australian Defence Force Centre for Mental Health team standing in an entrance to the centre. The two women are wearing army fatigues; the consultant psychiatrist is in plain clothes.

Three members of the team: psychologist SO3 Captain Alison Beeley; psychologist and Officer-in-Charge SO1 Mental Health, Education and Training Lieutenant Colonel Jacquie Costello; and consultant psychiatrist Dr Duncan Wallace

The work of the ADF Centre for Mental Health and its staff continue to go from strength to strength, ensuring that ADF personnel with mental health issues are provided with the very best care and support on their road to recovery.

Over the past year, the centre has entered into a partnership with the Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health at the University of Melbourne to develop and provide training on mental health assessment and case formulation to around 75 ADF mental health professionals. A further 30 received training in cognitive processing therapy to enhance the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. Other programs include Recognising the Early Signs of Emerging Trauma, Acute Mental Health on Operations and, in partnership with the Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, a clinical trial in anger and aggression management for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Staff conduct a formal second-opinion clinic to assist Defence medical officers and consultant psychiatrists in the management of ADF members who are experiencing difficult, complex or treatment-resistant mental disorders. This clinic has provided clinical consultancies on 48 cases to date and has proven to be enormously effective. Additionally, the ADF Centre for Mental Health provides clinical supervision to mental health professionals across Defence and regularly provides advice to both the Command and Joint Health Command on the review and management of complex mental health presentations.

In 2014, the centre hosted a joint meeting of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Mental Health Clinical Reference Group and the ADF Mental Health Advisory Group, and a workshop of mental health and research representatives from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand militaries.

Collaborations such as these are invaluable. They present opportunities to explore and expand the knowledge and understanding of mental health issues shared by centre staff and their colleagues here and abroad.

In November 2013, the centre moved into newly refurbished and purpose-built facilities on board HMAS Penguin in Sydney. The facilities are equipped with state-of-the-art consulting, counselling, observation, video conferencing, training, meeting and conference rooms.

Established in 2010, as part of the Defence mental health reform program arising from the Dunt Review, the centre was designed to improve the quality of mental health care in the ADF. It provides mental health consultancy services, trains and upskills the ADF mental health workforce, and provides expert advice to ADF commanders and members.

The team at the centre consists of a range of mental health professionals—including two Army psychologists, a consultant psychiatrist, a clinical psychologist and a program development manager—reporting directly to the Director General of the Mental Health, Psychology and Rehabilitation Branch within Joint Health Command.