Australian veterans' calls to mental health helpline going unanswered: data

Source: Xinhua| 2019-03-15 11:20:51|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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CANBERRA, March 15 (Xinhua) -- One in three Australian veterans seeking help for their mental health problems had their calls to a government helpline "abandoned."

According to data from the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) published by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Friday, the department's counselling helpline had a call "abandonment" rate of 35 percent in 2016-17, up 10 percent on 2014-15.

An abandonment rate is a measure of the proportion of times a caller gave up before they could speak to a counsellor.

The average wait times for calls increased from 67 seconds in 2014/15 to 174 seconds in 2016/17 while the number of calls to the service grew from approximately 7,500 to more than 10,000 in the same period.

According to an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report from November 2018 there were 165,000 veterans who relied on support from the DVA as of June 2017.

The suicide rate for male Australian veterans between 2002 and 2016 was 18 percent higher than all men.

Those aged under 30 had a suicide rate 2.2 times higher than that of other Australian men between 2014 and 2016.

The DVA told the ABC that dramatic improvements had been made to the counselling service since 2016.

"As at Dec. 31, 2018, call wait times have decreased to 59 seconds on average ... lower than the 2014-15 wait times," the department said in a statement.

"Several improvements have been made, including increased staffing, optimised rosters to ensure more staff are available during times of higher call rates, and re-prioritised calls to decrease the length of time callers have to wait for an answer."