For the first time, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) figures included all veterans who served from 1985 onwards, significantly increasing the study cohort that previously only included veterans who served from January 2001.
Following the release of the new AIHW findings, RSL Queensland is urging veterans and its members to reach out for support and counselling.
From 2002-2019, figures indicated that suicide rates were 24 per cent higher for ex-serving men and 102 per cent higher for ex-serving women when compared with the general population.
The data of particular concern for the ex-services organisation was the significantly increased risk of suicide for ex-serving Defence members, according to RSL Queensland state president Tony Ferris.
“It is an unimaginable tragedy when a veteran takes their own life and supporting veterans who are struggling with mental health issues remains one of our highest ongoing priorities,” Ferris said.
“RSL Queensland is committed to funding and enabling programs that promote a healthy transition to civilian life.
“In May this year, in partnership with the Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation (GMRF), we were proud to launch nationally, Go Beyond – a free, online, self-directed training program that is designed to help guide all ex-serving Australian veterans through their adjustment to civilian life.”
Go Beyond was the outcome of a six-year Service to Civilian Life Study completed by GMRF and proudly funded by RSL Queensland as part of its ongoing $14 million commitment to veterans' mental health initiatives and research.
Ferris encouraged veterans to connect with one of RSL Queensland’s 230 sub-branches across the state for welfare and support.
“RSL sub-branches are important to their local communities and play a critical role in supporting local veterans to achieve a high quality of life,” Ferris said.
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“We are here to provide practical support, wellbeing and welfare assistance and camaraderie to empower all veterans and members.”
According to Ferris, RSL Queensland and its wholly-owned subsidiary Mates4Mates funded tens of millions of dollars annually into programs, partnerships and services addressing veteran mental health and wellbeing issues.
Support is available to anyone who needs it, including:
- Defence All-hours Support Line 1800 628 036: a confidential telephone service for ADF members and their families.
- Defence Member and Family Helpline 1800 624 608: staffed by qualified human services professionals including social workers.
- Open Arms Veterans & Families Counselling 1800 011 046: provides free and confidential counselling and support for current and former serving ADF members and their families.
- The Defence Employee Assistance Program (EAP) 1300 687 327: a free, confidential and professional counselling service available to Defence Australian Public Service employees, Australian Signals Directorate employees, Australian Defence Force Reservists, ADF Cadets, Officers and Instructors of ADF Cadets and their immediate families, and their supervisors/managers.
- Safe Zone Support 1800 142 072 (available 24/7): a free and anonymous counselling line, for veterans and their families, providing access to specialised counsellors, with an understanding of military culture and experience.
- Lifeline Australia (available 24/7) 13 11 14: a national charity providing all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services.
Journalist – Defence and Security, Momentum Media
Nastasha is a Journalist at Momentum Media, she reports extensively across veterans affairs, cyber security and geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific. Previously, she was a Content Producer at Verizon Media, a Digital Producer for Yahoo! and Channel 7, a Digital Journalist at Sky News Australia, as well as a Website Manager and Digital Producer at SBS Australia. She started her career in media as a Video Producer and Digital News Presenter at News Corp Australia.