A departure from my normal posts and an open wound that I refuse to let heal, this post will be about Suicide and raising awareness. As a former ADF member, Nursing Student and Ship Mate of a someone who committed suicide, I have a personal interest and mission to raise awareness for our Brothers and Sisters in uniform.
In 2010 the Australian Defence Force (ADF) conducted a study called Mental Health in the Australian Defence Force in which all currently serving members of the ADF where asked to complete the survey in the interest of better understanding the extent and nature of mental health across the Services. Of the 50,049 members that were asked to participate in the survey, 24,481 (48.9%) responded. The facts and figures quoted in this post are of the respondents, or from the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, which is also quoted in the aforementioned ADF paper.
The facts as they are don’t paint a great picture of suicidality within the ADF, or for our country either.
Table ES.5 shows a total percentage of any person who has felt low enough to have thoughts of ending ones own life within the last 12 months, planned or ideated a suicide attempt within the last 12 months or actually attempted suicide within the last 12 months. As you can see the across the board, male, female or otherwise the likelihood of an ADF member thinking about, planning or acting on suicide is nearly twice that of the Australian population.
Now before I go any further, the numbers for the Australian population are also deplorable and in no way am I making light of the Australian figures, nor am I diminishing them in any way, this post is designed to raise awareness that those in Uniform are struggling and need help.
Percentages are great at comparing figures, but dehumanise too much and don’t paint the real picture. So here it is, in 2010; 3,358 members thought that their life was not worth living many more, 1,985 members had some kind of suicidal thoughts, of those 546 planned it, and 212 attempted it. Thats 212 potential families in turmoil, going by the 2.3 children average that’s 488 children who would not have one of their parents.
Now there are a myriad of services available to ADF members, while they are still in Uniform;
- ADF Alcohol Management Strategy
- ADF Suicide Prevention Program
- ADF Screening Programs
- Unit/Flight/Division level support
But these services require some level of opt in. The main hurdle with most opt in services is Stigma. Stigma is hard to tackle, it is usually a culture issue in the workplace, or something more personal. For ADF members it usually revolves around work, and deployability, and low and behold the data says the same thing.
This shows that even though the help is there, a fair portion of those who need it, won’t use the service. This then falls to the family, the friends, the ship mates, the unit or the flight to identify, help and support their oppo.
This means awareness.
If these untrained people are going to be the first line of defence for our members in Uniform, or members of the public for that matter, they need to be aware of what to look for and what to do about it.
There are a large number of support services in Australia;
- Beyond Blue
- Living is for Everyone (LiFE)
- Mind Spot
- Kids Matter
- Returned & Services League of Australia (RSL)
- Local Churches
- Local Support Groups (AA, NA)
- Your GP
- Your Local Hospital
There are also many local groups within towns and cities across this great Nation. Take the time to look them up and have the details on hand, you never know when you’ll need it.
The most important message to take away from all of this, is do something. Don’t be a casual observer, or think its too hard, or disassociate because you are scared. You might be the only friend that person has at that time, you could be the difference between them being here tomorrow and not. Don’t be afraid to have the conversation with people and as ARE YOU OK? This simple question could save someones life.
Remember though, the ADF members who leave the services no longer wear a uniform, they don’t have the insignia to show who they are, they don’t wear their medals every day to know where they have been. The scars they carry are often on the inside, and hard to see. So please, take a moment to talk with your friends, your neighbours, your work mates, the elderly fellow down the street, the new guy who moved in last week. Take the time to be there for them, build the community this country once had and was enviable for. Without it, the numbers won’t improve, people will continue to see no other way out and they will leave devastation in their wake.
Please, all I ask is share this message, it doesn’t even have to be this post, just share the message of #SuicidePrevention and #RUOK, get the conversation started, get passionate about those around you, fight for them as if they are actually dying, because for all we know, they are.
In Loving Memory of Peter Bach,