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Mental Health Women

International Women’s Day shines light on female veteran suicide

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In recognition of Internal Women’s Day (March 8), Soldier On shines a light on the high rate of female veteran suicides in our nation.

A report has found Australian women who have served in the Defence Forces are taking their own lives at a significantly higher rate than Australian civilian women. The report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) says: “The age-adjusted rate of suicide for ex-serving females was 127 per cent or 2.27 times higher when compared with Australian [civilian] females.”

Female veteran and Soldier On Counsellor, Kelly Brealey, says that female veterans face unique barriers when seeking help from a veteran support agency, especially if they have experienced Military Sexual Trauma.

“There is a pressure to maintain unit cohesion, and the tight-knit nature of service can cloak stigma and discourage female veterans from seeking help,” Kelly said.

“The military is a masculine-dominated culture and has been shown to further perpetuate stigma and discourage help-seeking behaviour in servicewomen. But there is also the often-incompatible intersection of different identities including warrior and mother,” Kelly added.

Veteran and Soldier On National Psychological Services Manager, Joe Losinno, said the veteran experience differs greatly when considering gender.

“Ultimately, servicemen and women have different military experiences, face different challenges and work needs to be done to ensure female veterans are adequately supported while in service, as well as during and after discharge,” Joe said.

Indeed, the Royal Commission into Veteran Suicide made mention of this under-studied and alarming phenomena. It said, “The experience of female defence members and veterans requires specific attention in this inquiry, to better understand the systemic issues faced by women.”

With International Women’s Day tomorrow, Soldier On encourages the female veteran community to reach out for support and for the wider community to stand with our female veterans in recognition of their service and experiences.

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