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Veteran suicide statistics highlight the need for targeted support

2 min read

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released its fourth annual report on suicide among permanent, reserve, and ex-serving ADF members, including numbers of suicide deaths between 1 January 2001 and 31 December 2019 and rates of suicide from 1 January 2002 to 31 December 2019.

The findings of the report support previous discoveries whereby ex-serving male and female personnel are shown to have a significantly increased risk of suicide when compared to that of the Australian public. The report also provided valuable insights into suicide rates within specific groups.

Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich, said the report sheds a light on those groups who are in need of greater support.

“Every suicide is a horrific tragedy. Every statistic included in this report is a human life. These are our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, and our mates,” Mr Slavich said.

“The conclusions drawn from this report will allow Soldier On to better understand the needs of the veteran community and we will be targeting our programs to address the needs of those groups which have been identified as most vulnerable, providing greater support where it is needed most,”

“Among many others, It is clear that those individuals who have separated from service involuntarily are at a significant higher risk than those who separated voluntarily. This tells us that greater support is needed for those individuals whose transition was not of their own choosing, many of whom may not be prepared for such a significant change,” Mr Slavich added.

Findings of the report also indicate that personnel who have served for a shorter period of time are at a higher risk of suicide. This may be an indication that greater support is needed for our ADF personnel in the early stages of their military career. This may be further supported with statistics showing that our younger veterans are at a greater risk of suicide.

The expansion of this study to incorporate those who had served from 1985 to 2001 is also a welcomed inclusion and acknowledges the lasting impact that service can have on members of the veteran community. In some instances, individuals can experience significant impacts long after their service has ended.

Soldier On hopes that the findings of the report will inform the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide on the shortfalls of current practices and the specific areas that are in dire need of change.

Soldier On intends to be an active participant in the Royal Commission and has established a working group to achieve this. Supporting thousands of veterans and their family members, Soldier On will work closely its participants to continue to inform the Royal Commission and National Commissioner of the needs of our veteran community now and into the future.

Soldier On strongly encourages its participants to make a submission to the Royal Commission and share your experiences with those who will be leading this inquisition. For those who may not be comfortable submitting their views directly to the Royal Commission, Soldier On will be speaking with its participants to represent their views and experiences within its own submission.

In the meantime, Soldier On continues to advocate for a Veteran Wellbeing Centre in the ACT to accommodate the large number of service personnel and contemporary veterans in the region. Soldier On is currently engaging in discussions with stakeholders, government representatives and other Ex-Service Organisations to advance the delivery of support services across the ACT, as well as other locations across the country.

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Lourdes Antenor is an experienced writer who specialises in the not-for-profit sector and its affiliations. She is the content producer for Third Sector News, an online knowledge-based platform for and about the Australian NFP sector.


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