Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report highlights veterans mental health concerns

THE suicide rate of female veterans is more than twice as high than that of Australian women.

For the first time the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released suicide information for female veterans in its most recent report.

It revealed that 21 women took their own lives between 2001 and 2017, however the historically low number of females serving in the Australian Defence Force meant the information could not be released until now.

A Wagga female veteran, who remained anonymous, said the inclusion of suicide information for the female population of the defence force was an important step to help validate their ongoing struggles with mental health.

There has been 419 suicides in the current and former Australian Defence Force personnel from 2001 to 2017.

The report found suicide rates of serving men in the defence force were 48 per cent lower than those who have not served, but male veterans had a 18 per cent higher suicide rate and female veterans had a 115 per cent higher rate.

The local veteran said the inclusion of suicide rates for ex-servicewomen, as well as, the ongoing updates on veteran rates continues to push the issue out in the open.

She said the federal government has data that it needs to take action on.

"If this is the base line then it needs to be looked at with great concern whether it be through education or for the Department of Veterans' Affairs or another entity to look at how they can do better," she said.

The federal government invests $11.5 billion a year to support veterans and their families, including more than $230 million a year on veteran mental health for which funding is uncapped.

However, she said more financial support is required to make mental health services widely accessible. She said current funding is drained on unnecessary processes rather than putting "boots on the ground".

Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester said the update shows that 42 current and former Australian Defence Force personnel took their lives in 2017.

"These deaths are tragic and the only acceptable number is zero," he said.

Mr Chester said there has been positive changes to the veterans' support system focusing on mental health and wellbeing, as well as, improvements being made to services support, transition and employment.

However, he said more can be done to ensure veterans and their families are supported now and into the future.

  • If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.
This story New report 'validates' mental health concerns, says female veteran first appeared on The Daily Advertiser.