A report released today into the rate of suicide among current and former serving Australian Defence Force personnel reaffirms that suicide prevention must be a matter of national priority.
FILE PHOTO: Self medicating. Photo by Brian Hartigan.
The report, Serving and ex‑serving Australian Defence Force members who have served since 1985 suicide monitoring: 1997 to 2020, prepared by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, is the fifth annual suicide monitoring report commissioned by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel Matt Keogh says the death of any current or former serving ADF member is a tragedy felt deeply by all in the Defence and veteran communities.
“Sadly, this latest report found that 1,600 ADF members and veterans with service after 1985 died by suicide between 1997 and 2020,” he said.
“This reveals an additional 327 deaths by suicide since last year’s report, largely due to an expanded study period, which now includes an additional five years of data and does not reflect an increased rate of suicide overall.”
The 2022 report found the most common risk factors for permanent, reserve and ex-serving ADF members who died by suicide were experiencing a mood affective disorder, such as depression, and problems in spousal relationships.
For males, suicide ideation was also found to be a risk factor while a personal history of self-harm was found to be more common for women.
“A single suicide by a veteran or serving ADF member is one too many, and we are committed to making every possible effort to prevent any further tragedies of this nature”, Minister Keogh said.
“After fighting for a Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide for many years, our Government welcomed the Commissioner’s Interim Report in August 2022, responding to each of the 13 recommendations swiftly.
“The research in this report, coupled with the work of the Royal Commission, is critical to deepening our understanding of the sad reality of suicidal ideation in our veteran community, enabling us to undertake the necessary reform to save lives.”
The Albanese Government is investing in a better future for Defence personnel, veterans and families by responding to important recommendations put forward by the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide.
We are delivering on our commitments from the Federal Election including a veterans employment strategy and expanding the network of Veterans’ and Families’ Hubs around the country.
Anyone who has completed a single day of service in the ADF can access a comprehensive range of services to support their mental health and wellbeing. This support is needs-based and uncapped.
Immediate financial assistance is also available to veterans submitting mental health claims, and, additionally, veterans can access health treatment for 20 commonly claimed physical conditions while their mental health claim is being considered.
Free and confidential mental health support for veterans and families is available through Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling service, and can be accessed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by calling 1800 011 046.
Defence personnel can contact their local health centre, the All Hours Support Line on 1800 628 036 or the Defence Member and Family Helpline on 1800 624 608.
Find the full report here.