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Government needs to act to stop more veterans’ suicides

Greens spokesperson for Veterans’ Affairs, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, today called on the government to act on the recommendations of the recent Senate inquiry initiated by the Greens into veterans’ mental health in light of reports that another veteran who was administered mefloquine has committed suicide after a long history of mental illness.

Senator Whish-Wilson extended his condolences to the friends and family of Chris Stiles, a veteran of East Timor.

Senator Whish-Wilson said, “The government must immediately make contact with all ADF members and veterans who have been administered mefloquine to warn them of the potential dangers and to ascertain if they too are experiencing any mental health problems.

“Defence has recently admitted that it shouldn’t have administered mefloquine to another veteran of East Timor, Christopher Salter, because of a pre-existing condition. The government has a duty of care to understand just how many veterans who were administered mefloquine are also struggling with mental illness.

“The Senate committee report released in March clearly outlines the problems associated with the administration of mefloquine, particularly to veterans of East Timor.

“Defence has been negligently slow in acting on this issue. Veterans have not been given adequate help and recognition of the problems they are facing. This is incredibly serious. The government must do all it can now to prevent further loss of life.

“The evidence from the UK and the US supports that of veterans of East Timor that mefloquine is a dangerous neurotoxic drug that can have long-lasting psychotropic effects. Defence has been slow to admit to the problems associated with mefloquine and, instead, continue to underplay the extent of its administration.

“The government should also provide an update on the status of the Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force's inquiry into the administration of mefloquine. If the government is to hinge its response on this inquiry then veterans should have some understanding of the timetable the government is working to,” he concluded.

NB:

The Senate: Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee
Mental health of Australian Defence Force members and veterans

Recommendation 5: The committee recommends that Defence and DVA contact ADF members and veterans who have been administered mefloquine hydrochloride (mefloquine) during their service to advise them of the possible short-term and long-term side effects and that all ADF members and veterans who have been administered mefloquine during their service be given access to neurological assessment.

Recommendation 6: The committee recommends that the report for the Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force's inquiry to determine whether any failures in military justice have occurred regarding the Australia Defence Force's use of mefloquine be published immediately following the completion of the inquiry.

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