Veterans and Depression

Whilst there is growing recognition that trauma can result in difficulties such as PTSD, there tends to be less focus on depression, which is actually the highest reported mental health problem in Australian military populations. Depression in the military and veterans often co-occurs with PTSD. It is also commonly seen in people dealing with life-changing injuries and chronic pain.

Depression is a common response to trauma and loss. The more trauma someone experiences, the higher the risk of experiencing depression. We know that for a variety of reasons it takes most people many years to access help, if at all. The longer one waits the more entrenched these difficulties can become.

Signs you may be experiencing low mood/depression

There are a lot of misconceptions about depression, but here are some common signs that could indicate it may be a problem:

  • Low self-esteem or self-worth, including negative thoughts or feelings about oneself
  • Disrupted sleep including sleeping too much or too little (insomnia)
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Difficulties managing feelings, such as anger or anxiety
  • Poor concentration and memory
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Reduced or absent sex drive
  • Finding it difficult to motivate yourself to do things which now seem to be too much effort or meaningless
  • Reduced pain tolerance
  • Low energy levels

What can you do if you or someone you know is experiencing low mood or depression?

If you have been experiencing some or many of the above, it is a good idea to let someone know such as a trusted family member or friend. You should also seek professional help, which you can do with your doctor or one of Soldier On’s psychologists.

Depression by its nature can make it feel like things will not get better but we know there are a range of different strategies that help, including evidence-bases psychological therapies such as CBT and Interpersonal Therapy. Practical strategies to facilitate recovery include having a regular schedule, engaging in pleasurable activities and exercise.

If you are experiencing thoughts of harming yourself and/or others

At times, people may feel so low and unable to see a way forward that they experience thoughts of suicide. These sometimes occur with thoughts of harming others. Soldier On’s psychologists work with clients struggling with these types of thoughts to keep the clients and those around them safe. This involves managing the immediate risk, safety planning and providing evidence-based psychological therapies to help clients to not act on and move past these difficult thoughts and feelings.

It is only when there is a serious risk of harm to self or others that psychologists are ethically bound to breach confidentiality and contact crisis mental health services for additional support. Our psychologists actively involve clients in this process, and encourage them to also involve their family, friends and support networks in risk management, where appropriate. At these times, our psychologists will also look to inform all those involved in their client’s care to ensure they receive ongoing support. This way of working fits with the Mental Health Act principal of managing mental health crises in the least restrictive environment to ensure safe and effective care.

If you are experiencing thoughts of harming yourself and/or others, we want to let you know that there is help available.



|| Soldier On psychologists are available in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Currumbin and Perth (from late January). Our psychology services are free of charge to veterans and their family members. Please email psychology@soldieron.org.au to book a session or to find out more information. There are also several other support services available to you, including VVCS (1800 011 046), Lifeline (13 11 14), beyondblue (1300 22 4636), other veteran organisations, and your GP.

Soldier On also offers Employment Support Services and Social Connected activities to help veterans and their families forge new career paths after leaving the military and encourage them to reconnect with themselves, their loved ones and the community. ||