Young men who leave the Australian Defence Force (ADF) before the age of 24 are twice as likely to take their own lives compared to men of the same age, a 15-year study has found.
The analysis of circumstances surrounding the suicides of serving and former ADF members, compiled by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), shows young men leaving the Army are among the most vulnerable.
“Between 2001 and 2015 there were 325 certified suicide deaths among people who served in the ADF,” AIHW director Barry Sanderson said, pointing to discharged men under 24 as the most at-risk age group.
“These men were twice as likely to die by suicide as young men in the general Australian population.”
“There were certain groups at a high risk of suicide as well as that age group — they were those who had served in the ADF for less than a year, and those that were discharged involuntarily.”
The report focuses on servicemen, as while incidence of women who had served in the ADF taking their own lives was recorded, there was not enough data to form solid conclusions.
Ex-ADF personnel ‘falling through the cracks’
While those currently in the Defence Force saw lower rates of suicide than men in the broader population, ex-servicemen were 14 per cent more likely to take their own lives.
Neil James from the Australia Defence Association said the report showed not all discharged members were finding the help they needed.
“Psychological care people get in the Defence Force is still pretty good,” he said.
“The problem with the post-service suicide rate is once you’re discharged you’re no longer the responsibility of the Department of Defence.
“This is where the problem occurs, people are still slipping through the cracks too much so the interaction of Defence Force healthcare and post-Defence Force healthcare through [Department of Veterans Affairs] and in some cases Comcare, has to be knitted together a lot better.”
Involuntary discharge sees higher suicide risk
Mr James said it appeared those who were medically discharged from the Defence Force were also at risk.
“In many cases it would not appear to be depression or PTSD resulting from war service,” he said.
“One of the things that it does point out is that people who are young and involuntarily discharged from the Defence Force on medical grounds are significantly more likely to commit suicide.”
Calling for more resources and research, Mr James said there would be no easy solution to better those who had served in Defence.
“I don’t think anyone really knows how you fix it, but certainly putting a lot more time, effort, and resources into it would help,” he said.
This piece by Jordan Hayne was first seen on ‘ABC News’ 30 June 2017.