Enhancing mental health screening within the ADF

 

Over the past decade, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has paid increasing attention to the issue of screening members for mental disorders.

 

With evidence showing that such conditions are just as prevalent in non-deployed personnel as those who have been deployed, the ADF’s Directorate of Strategic and Operational Mental Health (DSOMH) contracted Phoenix Australia to develop an enhanced mental health screening framework that would be able to respond to changes in operational tempo and also take into account the demands of operational and non-operational environments for maritime, land and air forces.

 

To develop the mental health screening continuum framework, Phoenix Australia undertook the following activities:

  • review of existing ADF mental health data reports
  • international consultations
  • review of recent literature
  • review of screening measures
  • stakeholder consultations
  • review of recent ADF reports.

 

The process included consulting with 49 leading organisations and experts, including Dr Charles Hoge and Dr Amy Adler from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, US; Dr Mark Zamorski, Head, Deployment Health Section, Department of National Defence, Canada; and Professor Neil Greenberg, Defence Professor of Mental Health, King’s College, UK.

Phoenix Australia identified that while PTSD is the highest occurring mental health disorder within the ADF, other conditions such as depression, suicidal ideation, and risky alcohol consumption are prevalent at levels higher than in the community and therefore should be the focus of screening.

 

Three potential mental health screening frameworks were developed by Phoenix Australia and proposed to DSOMH. They all met the ADF’s aim of maximising the coverage of screening, while minimising the cost as well as the screening burden on ADF members.