The challenges that are faced by those who choose a career in the Australian Defence Forces, or national armed forces in any country are quite different from those faced by your average 9-5 office worker.
Individuals in the military whether in combat, training, border protecting or otherwise, can be required to make frequent moves, domestically or internationally. This can make for difficulties in conserving social connection and creating a sense of belonging wherever they may be.
Those who have a role in the ADF that involves active service in the form of peace-keeping missions, border protection, humanitarian relief or combat are exposed to a range of circumstances that can negatively affect mental health and psychological wellbeing.
Putting Veterans First
The stigma associated with mental health runs deep in our society and the military setting proves to be no different. Fortunately, over the past decade, we have begun to witness real positive change in this area.
For those who experienced traumatic or confronting encounters during their time in the military, feeling your life or the lives of those around you in danger can have long-lasting effects. Witnessing suffering and combat can take a serious toll emotionally and psychologically, for many this can result in anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or any number of other mental manifestations like; agitation, insomnia, hypervigilance or disassociation.
Returning from overseas missions or retiring from service can present a whole other whirlwind of sentiments around transitioning from a structured workplace and community to civilian life. Adapting to change is not easy for most, yet coupled with the additional weight of trauma or unprocessed emotions, can result in a psychological landscape that can’t be toughed out alone. Nor should it have to be.
Psych Week provides the opportunity to educate and disseminate information to support everyone, including vets, to move through these challenges and live integrated and meaningful lives. The Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) and veterans’ benefits schemes, like the veterans gold or white cards, allow for vets to access numerous networks, resources and reimbursements for things like mental health support and associated medications.
Medical cannabis for mental health
Medical cannabis is both a novel and an ancient treatment for a range of mental health conditions. Three key areas where medical cannabis has been researched in terms of mental health are anxiety, PTSD and psychosis, with a growing body of evidence supporting its use for depression as well.
Medical cannabis prescribers assess each person individually to determine the best combination of cannabinoids to suit their situation and experience. Cannabinoids like THC and CBD can have varying effects at different doses, so it’s important for all patients, veterans in particular, to be guided by a medical professional when considering cannabis medicines as a treatment option for mental health.
Medical cannabis for veterans, Australia at the forefront of research
Two particular areas where there has been much research interest is the use of medical cannabis for vets with PTSD and anxiety, in order to potentially target a reduction in associated symptoms such as hypervigilance, flashbacks, insomnia and fear responses.
One of Australia’s leading patient and physician medical cannabis healthcare companies, Entoura together with Applied Cannabis Research are conducting a national research study on the effects of medical cannabis on PTSD and anxiety.
The goal of this research is to assess the efficacy of medical cannabis in Australians suffering from anxiety or PTSD. Given the high rates of mental health conditions experienced during and after ADF service, the information derived from this research will go a long way in supporting vets to receive accessible and effective medication to improve their mental wellbeing and quality of life.
CA Clinics will be prescribing and monitoring patients throughout the study. Veterans involved in this research initiative may be eligible for reimbursement on cannabis medications via the DVA veterans reimbursement benefits.
Streamlining the DVA funding application process
Entoura has also just launched an automated online tool for DVA funding applications for medicinal cannabis . This system is the first in Australia and will allow medical practitioners to submit their patient’s applications with ease and reduce DVA approval waiting times for vets who may benefit from a medicinal cannabis prescription. This targeted application process could result in funding approval in days rather than the current weeks or months.
If you’d like to find out more about medical cannabis or are interested in partaking in the anxiety and PTSD study, you can visit here.