New study provides greater insight into suicide in ADF personnel

A report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) provides new understanding of suicide among serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel, and identifies certain military-related characteristics that may put ex-serving men at greater risk.

The report, Incidence of suicide among serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force personnel 2001–2015: in-brief summary report, was launched today by the Hon. Dan Tehan MP, Minister for Veterans' Affairs.

AIHW Director and CEO Barry Sandison said that the AIHW had undertaken the study as an independent, trusted data agency, and welcomed the greater insight the new analysis provided.

'Today's report builds on earlier analysis and shows that, between 2001 and 2015, there were 325 certified suicide deaths among people with at least one day of ADF service since 2001,' he said.

At the time of their death, more than half (51% or 166 deaths) were no longer serving in the ADF, 28% (90 deaths) were serving full time and 21% (69 deaths) were serving in the reserve (active or inactive).

Most suicides were among men (93%), who also made up the majority of ADF personnel (85%).  Due to the much smaller number of suicide deaths among female personnel, the report focuses on suicide deaths in men.

The report shows that men who were currently serving full-time or in the reserve were considerably less likely to die by suicide than Australian men generally.  However, this was not the case for men no longer serving in the ADF, who were 14% more likely to die by suicide than their counterparts in the general community.

When looking further into the data, it was found that men who were no longer serving and were aged 18 to 24 were twice as likely to die by suicide as men of the same age in the general population.

The report also identifies several military-related characteristics associated with higher suicide rates within the group of discharged men.

'Men who were discharged involuntarily from the ADF were 2.4 times more likely to die by suicide than those who discharged voluntarily,' Mr Sandison said.

'And if their involuntary discharge was for medical reasons, they were 3.6 times more likely than those discharged for voluntary reasons.'

Men who had left the ADF after less than one year of service were also at higher risk—2.4 times more likely to die by suicide, compared with men who had served for 10 years or more.

Also at risk were men who did not hold a commissioned officer rank at discharge. They were 2.8 times more likely to die by suicide when compared to commissioned officers.

'From 1 July 2017, the AIHW will commence a 3-year strategic relationship with the Department of Veterans' Affairs to monitor and report on the current status and future needs of Australia's veterans and their families, and to develop a comprehensive picture of their health and welfare,' Mr Sandison said.

For advice on how to report on mental illness and suicide responsibly: www.mindframe-media.info

For immediate advice and support:

  • Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service: 1800 011 046
  • Defence All-hours Support Line: 1800 628 036
  • Lifeline: 13 11 14
  • Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
  • Mensline: 1300 789 978

Canberra, 30 June 2017

Further information: Elizabeth Ingram, AIHW, mob. 0431 871 337