Skip to main content

A way forward for veteran's mental health and wellbeing

29 June, 2022

Veterans’ Affairs has launched Te Arataki mō te Hauora Ngākau mō ngā Mōrehu a Tū me ō rātou Whānau, The Veteran, Family and Whānau Mental Health and Wellbeing Policy Framework - a detailed examination of the mental health and wellbeing needs of Aotearoa New Zealand’s veterans.

Most veterans leave service and transition into civilian life successfully, but some experience mental health and/or addiction issues, and are at risk of other outcomes including social withdrawal, poverty, homelessness, intimate partner violence, and suicide.

He Ara Oranga, the 2018 report of the Government’s inquiry into mental health and addiction, identified veterans as a vulnerable group, however a framework was never developed to address their needs.

In 2021, Veterans’ Affairs began the process to do that and brought together key defence and health organisations, veteran advocacy groups, health practitioners, and veterans to focus on the mental health and wellbeing of veterans and their families.

The aim of this roundtable group was to develop a cohesive and compelling resource explaining why we need to focus on the needs of veterans, and how we can better meet their needs.

“We realised there are problems and issues here,” said Head of Veterans’ Affairs, Bernadine MacKenzie.

"We wanted to look at the evidence, and identify what New Zealand can do to improve the mental health and wellbeing of veterans, their families, and whānau."

  •  Head of Veterans’ Affairs, Bernadine MacKenzie.

The roundtable highlighted the need for system improvements, increased awareness, effective prevention, and enhanced support.

They recommended that organisations – both military and civilian, government and non-government – should collaborate better to take immediate and effective steps to improve the wellbeing of our veterans, their families and whānau.

Veterans’ Affairs will work hard to make this happen, and will ensure that the priorities identified, have been embraced and taken forward.

Minister for Veterans Meka Whaitiri welcomed the resource.

“I’m impressed with the hard work and dedication of so many in the sector who’ve made this Framework happen” she said.

"What they’ve produced is a great guide to the needs of veterans, and how best to improve their mental health and wellbeing – and also that of the families and whānau who support them and help to shoulder their burdens."

  • Minister for Veterans Meka Whaitiri

Minister Whaitiri’s support for the framework is shared by Minister of Health Andrew Little and Minister of Defence Peeni Henare, who will all speak at the launch.

To encourage more collaboration between government agencies, for the benefit of veterans, many senior executives from their ministries will also be there.

Importantly, veterans and members of the roundtable will also be there. They include Willie Apiata (VC), Vic Timu, Ben Peckham, Tina Grant, Andy Peters and Chief of Army Major General John Boswell, who are all veterans.

They will be joined by Maaka McKinney, a veteran of 32 years with the NZ Army and of many deployments who features in a short film created for the launch.

Kia ea ai hoki te kōrero rā ko te mūrau o te tini,

ko te wenerau a te mano

Let us acknowledge the few that shelter the many.