The COVID-19 pandemic has tested us physically, socially, and psychologically, and having to rely on coping strategies and support networks has been overwhelming for many of us, and the strain has been particularly great for some of the most marginalised people in our community. Phoenix Australia is working with women from marginalised communities who want to help their communities recover, using the Skills for Life Adjustment and Resilience (SOLAR) program.
The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel, the Hon Dan Tehan MP, today officially launched the RESTORE trial – an Australian-first research program that will help improve treatment for current and former Australian Defence Force (ADF) members who have PTSD.
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) awarded a partnership grant to conduct the RESTORE trial to the Departments of Veterans’ Affairs and Defence and Phoenix Australia.
Phoenix Australia will lead the trial which will assess whether delivering prolonged exposure therapy over an intensive, two-week period will provide equal or better mental health outcomes than the current form that involves therapy over three months.
Phoenix Australia Director Professor David Forbes said this was the first Australian trial of intensive prolonged exposure treatment and Australia’s largest randomised controlled trial of PTSD treatment.
“PTSD is the most prevalent mental health disorder among Defence personnel, and within the broader community more than one million Australians a year have PTSD,” Professor Forbes said.
“Even the best treatments available are not a solution for everyone. We need to develop and test new and innovative approaches to help those not benefitting from current approaches.
“The outcomes of this trial will help not just the military and veteran community but also other Australians with PTSD as we improve PTSD treatments.”
Prolonged exposure therapy is currently the most effective treatment for PTSD and involves weekly treatment, with therapists guiding and supporting patients as they work through specific traumatic events. Over the course of the therapy, reactions to the memories of these events become less intense.
The two-year Rapid Exposure Supporting Trauma Recovery (RESTORE) trial will recruit about 200 current and former ADF members across three states – Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
Veteran Mr Chris May was diagnosed with PTSD after his second tour of Afghanistan and spoke at the launch.
“PTSD and associated anxiety and depression effects every person differently and is indiscriminate as to the time, setting and the way in which it will affect you,” he says. Prolonged exposure therapy has proven to be very effective for Mr May and he encourages current and ex-service personnel to speak up and seek help. “PTSD doesn’t need to control your life, it may seem like it now, but help is there.”
The trial will be conducted at Phoenix Australia in Melbourne, the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) offices in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney, and the ADF Centre for Mental Health in Sydney.
Further information on the RESTORE trial, including how to get involved, can be found here.