I am informed that extensive consideration is ongoing in the area of telemedicine and telementalhealth in the Defence Forces.
Telemedicine is currently being trialled on a Defence Forces overseas deployment in the emergency medicine field under the auspices of MEDICO Cork, which is the HSE's national 24 Hour telemedical support unit. Telemental health is widely used within other militaries and its efficacy is supported by research as an effective and useful addition to more traditional supports.
In addition, the Defence Forces Mental Health and Wellbeing Working Group is addressing the implementation of a Defence Forces Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy. The timeline provides for the final completion and implementation of this strategy in July 2020. Telemental health and psychosocial support form part of this process and are being considered accordingly.
The Deputy will be aware that members of the Defence Forces serving overseas already have access to the DF Personnel Support Service (PSS). The PSS provides a welfare, information, psychosocial support and referral service, that is professional, responsive and confidential. It sustains and enhances the individual well being of personnel, and promotes a safe and positive work culture, in order to support the effectiveness of the Defence Forces.
Mental health supports are part of a range of medical and non-medical services provided to ensure that Defence Forces personnel are medically fit to undertake the duties assigned to them. Other medical mental health services available to personnel include access to clinical psychology and psychiatry services.
My Department also funds a confidential counselling, referral and support service for serving members of the Defence Forces, civilian employees and Civil Defence volunteers. The service provides confidential counselling on a wide range of personal and work related issues, including but not limited to health, relationships, addictions, financial, bereavement, stress, conflict, critical incident and trauma.
In the case of relationship counselling, the spouse or partner may also attend the counselling sessions. A Freephone confidential helpline is available on a 24/7 basis 365 days a year. The helpline provides for referral to appointment-based telephone or face-to-face counselling.
While I am satisfied that the available medical services offer comprehensive supports to members of the Defence Forces, I can assure the Deputy that they are kept under constant review.