Open Door adopts a principally social health approach to veteran and family health. Here are some of our projects:
Veteran Suicide: Social and Historical Dimensions
This project aims to address veteran suicide by conducting an historical and cultural analysis of the ways government, the military and the community have understood, governed, and serviced veterans from 1914-present. This project will generate new knowledge, moving beyond orthodox medical and cultural assessments to explore wider historical, cultural and sociological relations of veteran suicide, including civil military relations, and the influence of the veteran sector and families and community. The project will develop an innovative survey that will form the foundation of a longitudinal social health and wellbeing dataset on veterans and contribute to policy and service provision to reduce veteran suicide and improve their wellbeing. Flinders University 4410 $490,170.00
Veterans in Corrections
This study investigates why veterans become involved in the Australian Criminal Justice System (CJS). This includes for the military and correctional services on strategies to enhance desistance from crime among that group. The study is taking place in South Australia, Queensland and NSW.
The project draws upon the international social health and transition literature. A social transition approach considers veteran incarceration as an effect of “the interrelationship of economic, cultural and environmental factors and living and working conditions, including family life, education, employment, healthcare services, housing, lifestyle choices and biological factors” (DVA 2015). Deteriorations in mental health, the advent of substance abuse, occurrences of family violence and increased social isolation generally signify problems in navigating the domains and thereby the transition from the military service to civilian life.
The Pipeline Project
(not yet funded)
This pilot project will create a pipeline from the supply of Defence personnel and transitioning veterans through education to careers. The pipeline will support 15 transitioning veterans to supply the SA economy with a qualified, capable, and healthy workforce. 10 veteran pathways into civil construction and data and communications, and five university pathways will be promoted.
Aligning with Joint Transition Authority goals, the pipeline “takes a whole-of-system approach, working to ensure transition services and support mechanisms are in place and working together for the benefit of transitioning Australian Defence Force (ADF) members and their families”. The pipeline generates new or enhanced capability for the ADF by building on the return-of-investment in-service personnel training and experience, creating labour-market efficiencies by appropriately matching personnel skills and ambition, with market demand and appropriate education pathways to job outcomes. We will assess each transitioning member’s wellbeing and their experience of transition.
The project sees collaboration between Defence, tertiary education institutions, veteran wellbeing research agencies and industry to generate a holistic, and economically efficient transition-education-employment model to:
1. retain Defence personnel across the ranks, supplying the TWS.
2. supply Defence Industries.
3. contribute to wider employment opportunities to bring ROI to non-defence industries and occupations in the form of a reliable, happy, and healthy workforce.
The pipeline can be tailored to the demands of the SA economy. By supporting Defence personnel, the pipeline feeds transition planning, and the Total Workforce System empowering personnel to engage in lifelong learning and lifelong service. TAFE and University pathways may lead to employment within or beyond the defence industries.
We will establish a state-wide tertiary education and industry committee to monitor and strategise effective lines of supply to industry while bringing a united approach to supporting veterans through study and into employment. The pilot will be formatively evaluated.
Mapping Transition and Service to Self Harm
(DVSRC) ($154, 000)
The project will provide information on the risk factors leading to suicide including adverse childhood events, service trauma, and engagement with defence and veterans’ affairs systems, transition, and post service life. The project willdetail institutional systems and services that generate adverse experiences for serving and post service personnel that create a risk burden or mitigation. The outcomes will be case studies, innovative analytical frameworks, and representations of the findings that address policy and service provision, with clear actionable recommendations that can be instituted to reduce risk. The project includes co contributions. We will use existing funds to complete the agreed work in the existing projects. The project combines the veterans in corrections work of Adelaide University with Open Door, Flinders University research and the ARC Discovery Project data.
This project will draw upon existing research interviews in the areas of institutional abuse (defence abuse), veterans in corrections and veteran suicide (the methods section describes the sample ranging from 89-134 interviews contingent upon different factors). The objective is to use the life history and analytic ethnography methodology in each field to map the veteran journey from childhood, preservice, through service to transition and post service life. The project will develop analytical frameworks and data representation methods to present a rich contextual lived experience understanding of veteran life courses that lead to mental illness, suicidal ideation, attempt and completion. The analysis includes adverse childhood events, service trauma through deployment or domestic service, trauma experience through defence abuse or adverse experiences with the military justice system of military medical systems, adverse experiences with the DVA claims and service systems. An example of an initial deidentified brief is attached. This is one way we have complied our existing research. This is the basis of developing policy and service position data representations that will meet the needs of the DVSRC. Our outcomes for the DVSRC will be more advanced and sophisticated. The method aims to identify the causal mechanisms for veteran suicidality. While each individual’s life trajectory is unique – our approach will draw out the common experiences, themes and events that lead to harms. This analysis to understand and explain the patterning of data (experience) can then be used to develop protective policies, interventions and change in the ADF and DDVA.
Male Veteran Suicide
Freemasons Centre for Male Health and Wellbeing, Flinders Foundation ($153 000)
93 per cent of veteran suicides are completed by men. Men constitute 85 per cent of serving personnel. When this 2021 EOI was submitted the government and its official data sources believes that between 373 Australian veterans took their lives 2001 and 2016. A recent update study by the Australian Institute For health and Welfare (2022, AIHW) has updated that to 717 deaths. 84 deaths occurred in 2019. The data is still considered unreliable. Our official understanding is now that male veterans the age of 30-39 have the highest veteran suicide rate (39/100 000) which is about 1.5 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. Ex serving males aged under 30 have a suicide rate of 34 per 100,000 also significantly higher than the national Australian male average. In the year since this research was funded and begin the Australian government has called a Royal Commission in to Defence and Veteran Suicide.
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. 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.
This research study into veteran suicide will interview 12 families of male veterans who have taken their lives since 2001. We will also interview 12 veterans who attempted suicide but continue on with life. The first round of funding has supported 25 per cent of that number.
The research team will conduct significant documentary and archival research to investigate the institutional factors leading to male veteran suicide, as well as collecting their stories to understand their personal, family and community pressures.
We will investigate the health and support policies within which male veterans work and live, as well as the health provision pathways these veterans who completed suicide took in their last months. It will identify education strategies for serving and former members, a suicide/transition inventory to identify at risk personnel/veterans,
and it will make recommendations on the current policy context around addressing mental health while serving and after separation. This context includes transition services, and the developing relationship between separated personnel and DVA and the veteran sector.
The aim is to explore the relationship between the ideals of manhood, the impacts of military training and service and their relationship with poor mental health or moral injury leading to suicide attempt or death. Our research aligns with the National Male health Strategy by addressing health inequities among males (veterans), developing suicide prevention measures, and beginning to build an evidence base for male veteran suicide (there isn’t any as yet).
Our research will improve DVA and DoD health care services for male veterans vulnerable to suicide. We aim in this proposal to include video production of the men’s health/male suicide stories to inform government, the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide and the veteran escort on the issues specific to male suicide in the military.
This is ground-breaking research in the Australian context. We see the potential for expansion into first responders and other industries like construction.
 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
No-women's-land: female veterans, gender, transition and support for mental health -Hospital Research Foundation ($150000)
Most Australians perceive veterans as male. However, many women also serve. They are often extremely visible and marginalised in this dominant masculine culture of military service. Yet, when they leave the military, they are largely invisible and have significant struggles transitioning to civilian life, with higher suicide rates than male veterans. Our research seeks to better understand women veterans' experiences.