A survey of Tasmanian veterans found many felt “broken” and were reluctant to seek help, a Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide has been told.
A feasibility study aimed to improve the state’s services for veterans recommended a “hub and spoke” model due to its highly dispersed population, Steven D’Alessandro from the University of Tasmania said.
The marketing professor said extensive consultations with veterans, ex-servicemen organisations and health agencies identified a raft of challenges for Tasmanian veterans, including a chronic shortage of GPs and mental health services.
Many of the state’s veterans also flagged they were unlikely to seek help unless the services were tailored not just for ex military, but also for their particular demographic.
“Part of the issue was ‘will veterans engage with a service you provide?'” Prof D’Alessandro told the inquiry.
“If it’s not designed for them, with them in mind, they won’t.
“There’s a reluctance – and we suspect it’s because of their military training – to admit sometimes that they are broken … that once you were seen as broken or discharged, you were no good as far as the military were concerned.”
Professor Christine Stirling, head of the university’s School of Nursing, said the study also demonstrated that reaching veterans soon after they transitioned into civilian life was critical, but services for Tasmanian veterans were “not very strong or adequate”.
“People who are medically discharged, they fall through the gaps the fastest,” Prof Stirling said.
“We really saw that people have a strong identity as being part of the Defence Force, and then almost feel abandoned after the coming out.”
The inquiry will conduct its final day of hearings in Hobart on Wednesday before the commission’s interim report is released on Thursday.