Military staff face higher suicide risk: commission

Dominic Giannini |

Australian Defence Force members are at an elevated risk of suicide compared to their civilian peers
Australian Defence Force members are at an elevated risk of suicide compared to their civilian peers

Three Australian military personnel or veterans are taking their lives each fortnight and men in the defence service face a higher risk of suicide.

Research conducted by the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide also found serving male members of the Australian Defence Force are 30 per cent more likely to commit suicide compared to their employed counterparts in the general population.

This jumps to twice as likely for men serving in combat or security roles.

Commissioner Peggy Brown revealed the research conducted by the royal commission in a speech at the National Suicide Prevention conference in Adelaide on Tuesday.

It’s the first time the suicide rate for permanent serving ADF members has been compared to the civilian employed population.

“Previously Defence stated that service was a protective factor when it comes to suicide,” Ms Brown said. 

“Our analysis, and comparisons to the employed population, show that risks of military service, whether it is occupational or organisational, suggest service may be a risk factor.”

Wreaths laid during Anzac Day Dawn Service at Gallipoli
Almost 80 serving or ex-ADF personnel have taken their lives each year on average over a decade. (New Zealand Defence Force/AAP PHOTOS)

Using statistics on employed people as opposed to the general population gave a more apt comparison when identifying at-risk groups within the defence force, she said.

“These statistics … should be seen as an opportunity by Defence to create change and regain the trust of serving and ex-serving members, as well as new recruits.”

The statistics were consistent with the Defence Department findings that full-time ADF personnel in the permanent force were twice as likely to take their own life compared to Australia’s employed population, the commission said.

Serving permanent members of the force were almost six times more likely to have suicide-related contact with police or paramedics as opposed to those serving in the reserves or ex-members, according to the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research.

Almost 80 serving or ex-defence personnel have taken their lives each year on average over the decade to 2021.

The research will form part of the royal commission’s final report, which is due to be handed to the governor-general by September 9.

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AAP