New Defence and veteran suicide research

New research into the rates of suicide among members of the ADF and the veteran community reveals an urgent need for action.

This article discusses veteran suicide and other issues that may impact veterans. If any of this raises issues for you, don’t go through it alone:

  • Open Arms 24/7 Support Line (1800 011 046)
  • Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467)
  • Lifeline 24/7 Crisis Support (13 11 14)
  • Beyond Blue Support Service (1300 224 636)

At a glance:

  • A new Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report outlines the prevalence of suicide in the Defence and veteran community.
  • Both male and female veterans are more likely to die by suicide than other Australians.
  • Common risk factors include mood disorders, issues in spousal relationships and a history of self-harm.
  • The League is committed to addressing the problem by providing veterans with access to a range of mental health and wellbeing services.

New data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) sheds further light on the issue of suicide and self-harm among members of the current and ex-serving Defence community.

The AIHW report, which forms part of an ongoing body of work commissioned by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA), comes just months after the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide Interim Report delivered 13 urgent recommendations to address Defence and veteran suicide.

Key takeouts from the AIHW report include:

  • Between 1997 and 2020, there were 1,600 certified deaths by suicide among members who have served after 1 January 1985.
  • Male veterans are 27 per cent more likely to die by suicide than other Australian men.
  • Male veterans aged 50 years and over had a lower suicide rate than those under 50 years.
  • Compared with the Australian population, suicide rates were 107 per cent higher for veteran women.
  • The most common risk factors for serving and veteran men were mood (affective) disorders, problems in spousal relationships and suicide ideation.
  • The most common risk factors for serving and veteran women were mood (affective) disorders, personal history of self-harm and problems in spousal relationships.

The rates of death by suicide within the veteran community makes the work of RSL NSW, its charity partner RSL LifeCare and every sub-Branch across the state vitally important to support veterans and their loved ones.

 How RSL NSW supports veterans in need

 RSL LifeCare Veteran Services

RSL NSW’s partner charity RSL LifeCare offers access to a range of practical support services for veterans, including compensation and wellbeing advocacy, and assistance with employment, housing and DVA claims.

Get in touch with RSL LifeCare Veteran Services.

Veterans’ and Families’ Hubs

Veterans’ and Families’ Hubs are welcoming centres for veterans and their families, connecting them to a range of transition, employment, health and social support services.

RSL NSW has already established two hubs in key garrison towns, Nowra and Wagga Wagga, and more are being planned in the Hawkesbury, Hunter and Tweed/North Coast regions, and in Queanbeyan. This expansion forms part of a $46.7 million investment announced in October’s Federal Budget for 10 additional Veterans’ and Families’ Hubs across the country.

Find your closest Veterans’ and Families’ Hub.

 Sport and Recreation program

The RSL NSW Sport and Recreation Pilot, which ran from March to November 2022, aimed to build wellbeing and community connection fueled by mateship and recreation, with a bit of healthy competition along the way.

The program is a key component of the Strategic Plan 2021-26 and supports RSL NSW’s goal to grow its membership, and encourage members to have fun and help other veterans and their families.

A post-pilot survey of RSL NSW members found a 41 per cent increase in sport and recreation activities being organised by sub-Branches – showing a direct and positive impact on the lives of participants as a result of the pilot.

RSL NSW sub-Branches are now encouraged to start building their own recreation and activity program beyond the pilot districts.

Read how the Nabiac RSL sub-Branch got involved with the pilot.

Veterans’ Catalogue

To empower veterans and their families to more easily find and access services and support, RSL Australia has partnered with veteran-owned technology provider Servulink to develop the Veterans’ Catalogue app.

The Veterans’ Catalogue provides access to more than 1,500 registered veteran service providers across 12 categories, based on research from AIHW and informed by veteran needs.

“With immediate information at their fingertips, sub-Branch representatives can assist other local veterans to reach out and seek support on the spot,” says RSL NSW President Ray James OAM. “With this tool, we can greatly reduce some of our community’s stresses.”

Download the Veterans’ Catalogue app.

Veterans’ Health Week

Veterans’ Health Week is an annual health promotion initiative from the DVA. This year’s event ran from 1 to 9 October with the theme of ‘Eat Well’.

RSL sub-Branches organise local events during Veterans’ Health Week to engage veterans and their families in fun and educational activities for the benefits of their physical and mental health.

There are numerous support services available to help you, a colleague or a family member in times of crisis:

  • Open Arms 24/7 Support Line (1800 011 046)
  • Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467)
  • Lifeline 24/7 Crisis Support (13 11 14)
  • Beyond Blue Support Service (1300 22 4636)

The DVA has also compiled this list of mental health support services.