Legislative Council: Thursday, July 07, 2022


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

The Hon. L.A. CURRAN (20:28): I move:

That this council—

1. Acknowledges that 27 June is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day;

2. Notes that PTSD affects around three million Australians at some time in their lives, including over 10 per cent of military and emergency services workers and volunteers; and

3. Encourages the community to understand the causes of PTSD and support those who suffer from it.

Many within our community suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Whilst the culture and dialogue surrounding mental health has improved vastly over the last 20 years, more can always be done. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day provides the opportunity to raise awareness and shine a light on PTSD and the significant impact that it has on not only one's life but the lives of those around them.

Trauma impacts us all in different ways. For some, they may experience sadness, grief or shock, just to name a few. Over time these feelings will pass, but for others they may develop PTSD, in which these feelings are intense and distressing and, if left untreated, can last a long time. Post-traumatic stress disorder are the physical and psychological reactions that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event.

In light of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge and thank those who put on a uniform every day to keep Australians safe, at times to the detriment of their own wellbeing and safety. I would like to also acknowledge their families, who make many sacrifices to support their loved ones through the challenges they face.

As the motion notes, PTSD affects around three million Australians at some time in their lives, including over 10 per cent of military and emergency service workers and volunteers. Post-traumatic stress disorder is the second most common mental health condition in Australia, the most common being depression. It is often left undiagnosed and therefore left untreated. Whilst not everyone who experiences significant trauma will develop post-traumatic stress disorder, around 5 per cent to 10 per cent of Australians will suffer from the condition at some point in their lives.

It is estimated that around 2 per cent to 20 per cent of all people who have experienced a traumatic event develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Without adequate help and support in navigating a traumatic experience, it can put individuals at risk of developing other comorbid mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression. As a parliament, we have a responsibility to raise awareness and continue to change the stigma surrounding mental health so that people feel more comfortable coming forward and asking for help.

The former Liberal government reactivated the Repat as a thriving health precinct that delivers on the needs of the community. An essential component of the Repat site activation was the inclusion of services and support for the veteran community. Supported by a $5 million grant from the commonwealth, the Repat is home to a dedicated Veteran Wellbeing Centre, which includes a range of services, including counselling, which supports veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Major disasters involve the risk of post-traumatic stress both for residents and responders. Following the bushfires on Kangaroo Island, SA Health's KI Health Advisory Council worked with SA Health Breakthrough Mental Health Research Foundation to offer free courses for 100 people. Responders were linked to services, including non-government organisations such as Trojan Trek. Trojan Trek's model includes a five-day trek into the wilderness of the Flinders Ranges, which benefits the mental health of emergency first responders.

Growing out of the Repat Foundation, the Military and Emergency Services Health Australia delivers high-quality research with meaningful practical health and wellbeing outcomes for our current and former military and emergency services and their families. Ambulance officers are vulnerable to post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Hospital Research Foundation Group charity Military and Emergency Services Health Australia is co-located at the Jamie Larcombe Centre as a world-class collaborative research institute focused on optimising the mental health and wellbeing of Australia's current and former military members, emergency service personnel and their families.

These are but a few examples of how the former Liberal government prioritised mental health services for those battling with PTSD. Those who are suffering from PTSD can often do so silently. It can be incredibly lonely and isolating, despite so many experiencing it in their lifetime. In summary, PTSD is often debilitating as well as all encompassing and impacts the lives of those who battle with it and impacts those around them.

I ask that we in this place do all we can to assist those who are impacted directly and indirectly by this illness. We must continue to raise awareness. I call upon my parliamentary colleagues to ensure that our frontline workers and volunteers have access to supports not only after their service but throughout their service, so that people have access to preventative help before they get to that point.

My hat goes off to those who battle with PTSD. I acknowledge your strength, courage and fight. I acknowledge your bad days and your good days. I acknowledge the hard work that goes into being able to have those good days. I acknowledge the courage that it takes to work on your mental health and to ask for help. To quote my dad when I was kid, 'Nothing, other than family, is more important than your mental health.'

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.