Skip to main content

Royal Commission welcomes AIHW report containing updated suicide data

The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide welcomes the release of a key report which includes an extra five years of data on the number of suicide deaths among current and ex-serving ADF members.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) annual suicide monitoring report reveals at least 1,600 serving and ex-serving ADF members died by suicide between 1997 and 2020.

There were 79 deaths by suicide in 2020.

Commission Chair, Nick Kaldas, said the suicide rate in the Defence and veteran community continued to be of grave concern.

“These aren’t just numbers, but people who tragically felt they could not go on,” Commissioner Kaldas said.

“Behind every death by suicide are family members, friends and colleagues whose lives are forever changed.”

The AIHW’s previous report recorded 1,273 deaths by suicide between 2001 and 2019.

All five suicide monitoring reports have shown ex-serving ADF members are at a higher risk of death by suicide than the general population. This year’s report is largely consistent with previous reports, and reveals:

  • Ex-serving males are 27% more likely to die by suicide than Australian males
  • Ex-serving females are 107% more likely to die by suicide than Australian females
  • Current permanent and reserve males are about half as likely to die by suicide as Australian males
  • Men who leave the ADF for involuntary medical reasons are three times as likely to die by suicide than those who leave voluntarily

Commissioner Kaldas said the increase in available suicide data was vital to the work of the inquiry.

“It is important we have a full picture of the problem, to understand where and how to best direct efforts to prevent suicide, and to improve the lives and wellbeing of the Defence and veteran community,” Commissioner Kaldas said.

Commissioner Kaldas said it was crucial that organisations, such as the AIHW, receive the relevant health and transition data held by the Department of Defence, to help gain better insight into the issues that might be impacting suicide rates or levels of suicidality amongst serving and ex-serving Defence members. He said the Commission would also benefit from suicide data of those who served before 1985.

The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide has held seven public hearings, with its eighth hearing in Wagga Wagga to begin on 28 November 2022.

The inquiry continues to encourage current and ex-serving ADF members and their families to make submissions.

“We want to hear about all aspects of the military, including recruitment, training, deployment, culture, injury management and transition into civilian life,” Commissioner Kaldas said.

“Coming forward isn’t always easy, but your story can help us to make the changes needed to better support serving and ex-serving members.”

The Commission handed down its Interim Report in August and a final report is due by June 2024.