At the Imperial Springs International Forum 2019, Lieutenant General Peter Leahy AC (Ret’d) delivered a speech at the ‘Multilateralism at a Crossroads’ Breakout Session A:
The inclusion of mental health as a priority within the Sustainable Development Agenda, for 2030, is a significant achievement.
The United Nations is acting to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages and to assure physical, mental and social well-being.
It will help prevent suicide, self-harm, despair, depression, broken families and unfulfilled lives.
I congratulate the United Nations for its multilateral approach and I also congratulate Dr. Chau Chak Wing, for his leadership and vision in helping to build this high profile international forum together with the Club de Madrid.
They have recognised that there can be “no health without mental health”.
Importantly the United Nations has recognised that mental health is caused by societal as well as environmental factors.
It was exciting to see that all Member States of the United Nations have agreed on a multilateral and unified approach to eliminate extreme poverty, reducing inequality and protecting the planet in a rapidly globalizing world.
Much of this work needs to be done in the mental health area and from my point of view, in veteran’s mental health.
It is estimated that globally one in 4 people experience a mental health episode in their lifetime.
In Australia, where I come from, it is estimated that 20% of Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness in any year.
Almost half (45%) Australians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime and that 54% of people with mental illness do not access any treatment.
Suicide is the leading cause of death for people Australians aged 25-44 and second leading cause of death for young people aged 15-24.
As a retired Army officer and Chairman of two veteran’s charities Soldier On and the Australian Veterans Students Association I am very much interested in how we can support the mental health of veterans and their families.
In 2018 an Australian government report that found that people leaving the Australian Defence Force have much higher rates of mental disorders than the general community.
I have seen at first hand the despair and devastation that these illnesses can cause.
Of greatest concern are the statistics on suicide.
Australian male veterans under 30 are suiciding at double the rate of other Australian men their age. Veterans over 30 are 18 per cent more likely to die by suicide than the Australian average.
In the Australian Army, since 2001, there have been approximately 4 times more deaths by suicide than those who have been killed in action.
Multilateralism in the Veterans Space
The veterans of many countries suffer both physical and psychological injuries because of their service in conflict zones, on United Nation’s peacekeeping missions and on humanitarian and disaster relief missions.
Some are supported and can return to be resilient individuals capable of developing and expanding meaningful connection with family, community and employers.
Too many are not supported.
At Soldier On we have worked with a close group of allies, including the United States, Great Britain, New Zealand and Canada to develop viable solutions to many veteran health problems.
I am conscious that many countries have not been able to develop such methods.
In a spirit of multilateralism engendered by the United Nations attention to SDG Target 3, I propose that there is much more that can be done to support global veterans.
I recommend that this Imperial Springs International Forum determine to develop a multilateral approach to veteran’s mental health.
In this way the United Nations will support its intent of a more intense form of cooperation with other international and regional organisations.
By developing closer contacts with business, civil society and other stakeholders it can move towards an inclusive and networked multilateralism to help overcome the challenges of the current era.”