New figures on veteran suicide released

Former female members of the Australian Defence Force are more than two times as likely to die by suicide compared with the general population, a new report has found.

The latest update on suicide among ADF members by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare revealed that while suicide rates remained similar to previous years, ex-ADF members still had a higher rate compared to the Australian population.

The suicide rate between 1997 and 2020 among ex-serving men was 27 per cent higher than the general population, after adjusting for age, while ex-serving women had a rate 107 per cent above.

However, suicide rates among permanent and reserve members of the ADF who are currently serving remained below rates among the broader community.

The report found male permanent members of the ADF had a 49 per cent lower suicide rate, while it was 46 per cent lower for men in ADF reserves.

It's the fifth year the institute has released findings into suicide rates among veterans.

Institute spokesman Paul Pham said the report provided key information about how suicide rates differed.

"This ongoing monitoring aims to inform improvements in mental health and suicide awareness and prevention for serving and ex-serving ADF members and their families," he said.

"The AIHW acknowledges that every life lost to suicide is a tragedy and the impacts on family, friends and communities are profound."

This year's report follows the release of the interim report of the royal commission into veteran suicide.

The commission made 13 recommendations, which included measures to reduce the medical claims backlog for veterans.

Veterans' Affairs Minister Matt Keogh said the government would respond to each of the recommendations quickly.

"The research in this report, coupled with the work of the royal commission, is critical to deepening our understanding of the sad reality of suicidal ideation in our veteran community, enabling us to undertake the necessary reform to save lives."

Royal commission chair Nick Kaldas said the figures outlined in the report were concerning.

"These aren't just numbers, but people who tragically felt they could not go on," he said.

"Behind every death by suicide are family members, friends and colleagues whose lives are forever changed."

Mr Kaldas said gaining data on those who served pre-1985 would be useful.

"It is important we have a full picture of the problem, to understand where and how to best direct efforts to prevent suicide and to improve the lives and wellbeing of the defence and veteran community," he said.

Royal commission hearings are set to resume later this month.

The institute's report said between 1997 and 2020, there were 1600 deaths from suicide among ADF members who had served since 1985.

For men who left the defence force voluntarily, the suicide rate was similar to the overall rate among Australian men.

The report found the most common risk factor for suicide was the presence of a mood disorder such as depression and anxiety.

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