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Veteran Suicide: Men, Health, Service

93 per cent of veteran suicides are completed by men. Between 2001 and 2016, 373 Australian veterans took their lives, according to a study commissioned by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA). The study noted that male veterans under the age of 30 had a suicide rate more than two times the national average for men the same age. This does not include the number of veterans who attempt to take their own lives every year. From 2001 to 2017, there were 419 suicides in serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel who had served since 2001. Ex-service organisations have argued that the number of suicides is potentially higher.

Male veteran suicide can be conceptualised in terms of service and post service or transition. Service-related suicides can be contributed to by operational trauma and moral injury[1]. This trauma can relate to service incidents such as training or workplace accidents, or occupational trauma for service police or medical staff such as attending fatal accidents, suicides, or fights. Bullying and harassment are also recorded as causes of service suicide. Transition is a challenging time for male veterans seeking to make a new life, experiencing significant upheaval and potentially addressing physical and mental health challenges, particularly for those whose role expectations of being ‘a soldier’ change unexpectedly. Transition includes successfully navigating key social domains such as education, employment, housing, justice, health and family and communities. Failure to navigate these domains can exacerbate issues such as social isolation, family breakdown, substance abuse and conflict.

[1] the demoralising negative psychological consequences of witnessing, participating in, or perpetrating acts (morally injurious events) in contravention of an individual’s deeply held moral beliefs

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