By Defense correspondent Andrew Greene
More than 1,200 Australian Defence Force #veterans and serving personnel have died by #suicide in the past two decades — almost three times higher than the number previously reported.
Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.
Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.
Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space. #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle
- Five months after the announcement of a royal commission into #veteran suicides, new figures give a clearer picture of the crisis
- The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare says 1,273 former and serving defence personnel have taken their lives since 2001
- This year’s report has for the first time considered #veterans who served from 1985 to 2000, not just from the past two decades
The latest data gives a clearer picture of the scale of the crisis in Australia, five months after the Prime Minister’s announcement of a wide-ranging royal commission into defence and #veteran suicides to examine “the human cost” of defence service.
The latest figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reveal 1,062 ex-servicemen and #women, and a further 211 serving personnel, took their own lives between 2001 and 2019.
It is a dramatic increase on last year’s report which recorded 267 #veteran suicides, and 198 suicides by serving ADF personnel since 2001, but the discrepancy is due to a wider data set now being examined.
This year the AIHW considered an additional 149,000 #veterans in the survey who had served at least one day in the military from 1985 to 2000, more than doubling the sample size of the previous report which only examined ADF members who came after.
Navy #veterans are most at risk from #suicide, with 33 per 100,000 taking their own lives, compared to 31 per 100,000 for army #veterans and 21.7 per 100,000 for those who have served in the air force.
Christine Morgan, chief executive of the #NationalMentalHealthCommission, said the latest data was a sobering reminder of the scale of the crisis in Australia.
“These increased numbers emphasise the urgency of the need to continue our work to improve our services and support, to reach out and lean into our #veterans,” she said.
Ms Morgan said serving military personnel were about half as likely to die by #suicide as everyday Australians due to “protective factors” associated with ongoing ADF membership.
“The risks in particular are for our #female #veterans, and with respect to our #male #veterans, if they are young, under 30 years old, have less than five years or less of service and are discharged on medical grounds.”
#Veteran family advocate Gwen Cherne, whose ex-serviceman husband Peter took his own life in 2017, believes now is a particularly difficult time for military personnel and #veterans.
“We’ve had court cases in the media, as well as negative stories about our SAS in the media,” Ms Cherne said.
“We have the special investigator [for war crimes] coming online, the withdrawal of troops from #Afghanistan, the subsequent fall to the Taliban, the missions to support Afghans seeking refuge, on top of #COVID and lockdowns.”
In a statement, the #VeteransAffairs Minister Andrew Gee said while there had been important progress in addressing the issue of #suicide, such as free #mentalhealthtreatment for life, more needed to be done.
“I have directed the #DepartmentofVeteransAffairs to make the speeding up of claims processing as well as reducing the backlog a matter of utmost urgency so that we can make sure our #veterans receive the necessary financial support and wrap-around services,” he said.
In July, the ABC revealed former New South Wales Deputy #Police Commissioner Nick Kaldas was preparing to run the long-awaited royal commission into veteran and defence suicides.