Colonel Clare Bennett, Chief Mental Health Officer, Defence Health Directorate & Director Integrated Wellness of the New Zealand Defence Force, reports on the Military Issues Work Group match held in 2019.
The Military Issues Work Group members discussed leadership challenges they face and the efforts and decisions they make to address them in order to meet the mental health needs of active duty service members, veterans, and their families in each country.
The focus was on how participants solve challenges related to access to mental health care, and how they ensure accountability for the delivery of the highest quality mental health care or services to military members, veterans, and their families.
Fourteen people attended representing Germany, New Zealand, The Netherlands and the U.S.
Each country gave background about current mental health work and issues. Of particular interest is the fact that the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) will conduct a health and wellbeing survey in October, which will provide information on progress made since the last survey (2016) to include attitudes towards health-seeking, barriers to care, relationships, and burnout among others. New Zealand is also working on developing a peer support program, with the goal of reducing the stigma of mental health care.
Each country spoke to access and barriers to mental health services.
Topics of interest for potential collaboration between work group members were brought forth and discussed. They are as follows:
After in-depth discussions of the aforementioned topics, three were selected. These topics were sent to all group members for voting in order to determine the next collaborative project. They are as follows:
Work on Option two is now being progressed as a collaborative project through quarterly video conference meetings.
Membership of this group enables the NZDF to utilise the networks and learnings gained through involvement with IIMHL for the development of NZDF mental health practice (policy and tools for maintaining positive mental health), impacting on our diverse workforce population spanning prevention and care.
NZDF involvement with this forum strengthens our ability to connect to and leverage contemporary research and programmes of work relevant to military and veteran mental health. There are considerable opportunities for the NZDF to access research, resources and support through the relationships that continue to be developed through this forum.
Outputs from the meeting contribute to DHD initiatives that support the Enduring Wellness strategic objective of the Health Strategy and programmes of work in the Mental Health strategy to:
Photo: attendees of the match visited the National Museum of Health and Medicine.