High suicide numbers in the children of Vietnam veterans is likely to be a continuing problem, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
A 1999 Institute report confirmed that suicide rates in the children of Vietnam veterans are three times that of the general community.
The latest report, Suicide in Vietnam Veterans Children, commissioned by the Department of Veterans Affairs, shows that this figure, and associated patterns of suicide, remained unchanged from 1988 to 1997.
Head of the AIHWs Health Registers and Cancer Monitoring Unit, Dr Paul Jelfs, says that on the evidence we have, if current suicide patterns remain steady, there is a risk of a substantial number of suicides among the children of Vietnam veterans in the coming decade that will be well above what would be expected in the general community.
A large group of veterans children is now moving into the 20 to 29 year age group, which has a higher suicide risk in the community than younger age groups.
A few weeks ago the Institutes National Injury and Surveillance Unit confirmed that there had been a substantial increase in suicide rates in the general community in the 20-29 year age group over the last 20 years.
So, essentially, we are looking at a specific high-risk group within a high-risk age group in the community.
A range of measures has already been set up by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care to deal with this problem, including extended access to counselling, provision of crisis care, education and access to programs to assist healthy family functioning.
Our new figures confirm that this assistance is well-placed.
An estimated 230 children of Vietnam veterans suicided between the end of the Vietnam conflict and 1997, with 80% of these being male.
Counselling assistance and information is available 24-hours a day to Vietnam veterans and their families through the Vietnam Veterans Counselling Service telephone: NSW 1800 043 503; far north Queensland 1800 019 332; anywhere else in Australia 1800 011 046.
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