Introduction

Overview

This Final Report analyses the health and wellbeing of serving, ex‑serving and reserve ADF members who have died by suicide and had at least one day of service since 1 January 2001. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has undertaken a comprehensive analysis to identify risk and protective factors related to suicide among ADF members. The quantitative analysis of ADF suicides makes comparisons with the ADF population and general Australian population, where possible. The study explores physical and mental health in connection with military service, separation from the ADF, and transition to civilian life. This analysis utilises existing and new datasets to further provide a comprehensive understanding of risks and protective factors relating to suicide.

Objective

The objectives of the analysis are to:

  • identify trends and systemic factors contributing to or preventing ADF members’ deaths from suicide
  • compare the health of ADF members who have died by suicide with all Australians who died by suicide to provide insights on specific risk factors for ADF members
  • compare the health of ADF members with a recorded suicide and ADF members who are still alive to provide information on protective factors for ADF members
  • identify patterns of suicidality among ADF members.

Background

On 5 February 2020, the Prime Minister announced the establishment of a National Commissioner to inquire into and support the prevention of deaths by suicide among serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) members.

As a first priority, the interim National Commissioner is undertaking an Independent Review of Past ADF and Veteran Suicides (the Review). The key objectives of the Review are to build on existing research and undertake new analysis by integrating relevant data sources, and to identify and describe common themes, trends and systemic factors that may contribute to suicide by ADF members.

This Final Report presents the AIHW’s analysis of ADF members with at least one day of service from 1 January 2001 who have died by suicide from 1 January 2001 to 31 December 2018. The quantitative analysis informs the key objectives of the Terms of the Reference1 for the Review. Comparisons are made with all ADF members, and Australians who died by suicide.

This report focusses on current or former ADF members who has served at least one day of ADF service during 2001 and 2018. There are 216,640 persons covered, of whom 118,584 were ex‑serving, 55,438 were serving, and 42,618 were members of the reserve.2

Notes

  1. Revised Terms of Reference, Independent Review of Past Defence and Veteran Suicides
  2. Where the ADF member had died, this refers to their service status at the time of death.

Acknowledgements

The AIHW thanks and acknowledges the large contribution by staff from a range of organisations in providing datasets and advice. These organisations are

  • Department of Defence
  • Department of Veterans’ Affairs
  • Australian Bureau of Statistics
  • National Coronial Information System
  • Department of Justice and Community Safety (Victoria)

The AIHW also thanks and acknowledges contributions of internal staff from the AIHW; Data Integration Service Centre who conducted the data-linkage, Ethics Privacy and Legal Unit who facilitated the ethics approval process and Specialist Capability Unit who provided statistical guidance in the methods used for the analysis. 

The AIHW thanks those who provided review; Professor Libby Roughead, Associate Professor Ben Edwards and staff from the AIHW Data Custodian Units. In addition, the AIHW thanks and acknowledges the support from the Office of the National Commissioner and formerly the Attorney General’s Department as well as the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care.

Finally, the AIHW also thanks Mindframe for providing invaluable training in the appropriate and sensitive way to report on suicide.