22 April, 2016: Contact details for defence mental health not-for-profit, Soldier On, will now be featured on more than 500,000 Australian Defence Force (ADF) uniforms, as part of a new initiative to address the emotional battles our army personnel face away from the frontline.
Delivered as part of a partnership with [Melbourne-based] uniform manufacturer Australian Defence Apparel (ADA), the addition of Soldier On swing tags to defence uniforms, would enable servicepeople to find help and reduce the stigma around mental illness in the army.
“ADF personnel will now learn about the free, tailored mental health services available to them, right from the first time they pull on their army gear,” ADA CEO, Matt Graham said.
Last year’s senate inquiry into the mental health of ADF personnel found that soldiers had been sidelined – or even lost their jobs – after flagging mental health problems. This contributed to many servicepeople suffering in silence, and resisting coming forward and asking for help out of fear of loosing their jobs.
“These tags are one way the ADF is saying it’s OK for soldiers to ask for help,” Mr Graham said.
“It also shows the ADF is responding to the prevalence of mental illnesses among its personnel, and that there are services nationwide, provided by Soldier On, to help those suffering,” he said.
Research has found that there has been a four-fold increase in PTSD cases since Australian troops first went to war in Afghanistan in 2001. Since 2000, 106 serving defence personal and more than 140 former service personnel have committed suicide.
“In 2016, we will be manufacturing over 40,000 army garments a month featuring the Soldier On tag,” Mr Graham said.
Soldier On CEO, John Bale, said that the uniform swing tags featuring the organisation's contact details are essential to spreading the word about the free mental health services and programs they offer.
“Those seeing the tags are likely to know someone who might need assistance, or might need help themselves, and will now have a better idea of how to find it,” Mr Bale said.
Soldier On programs include coffee catch-ups, art classes, outdoor adventure activities and social events for both acting service people and veterans.
"These types of activities have been proven to improve the rehabilitation of those affected by their service, and are the first step towards improving the support offered to our veterans and their families," Mr Bale said.
Mr Graham said ADA has been providing physical protection to soldiers in combat for more than 100-years, and through two world wars.
“The Soldier On partnership builds on our long history of protecting army personnel, by now promoting their mental wellbeing through inclusion of Soldier On's details with every uniform we make,” he said.
Australian war hero Corporal Daniel Keighran VC, recently appointed as an ADA ambassador, said that he was proud to be supporting a company with a long history of protecting people on the frontline.
“Working with ADA, I am able to contribute my experiences with equipment to assist in continuing to deliver quality uniforms to my fellow servicepeople,” Corporal Keighran VC said.
In 2012, Corporal Keighran VC was awarded a Victoria Cross medal for purposefully drawing enemy fire to himself in order to save the lives of his fellow soldiers during a deadly firefight in Afghanistan.
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