Private inquiry for veteran suicide announced
6 February 2020 at 8:30 am
Advocates hope the new commissioner will bring comfort to struggling veterans
Mental health groups have come out in support of a permanent independent commissioner tasked with investigating the deaths of over 400 serving and ex-service men and women that have taken their own lives since 2001.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Wednesday that the new National Commissioner for Defence and Suicide Prevention will have the powers of a royal commission when investigating the deaths.
Morrison told reporters in Canberra that the inquiry was able to keep evidence private, and said the ultimate result would be “bigger and better” than a public royal commission.
“I think we’ve come up with a much better way that brings everybody together,” Morrison said.
Lifeline welcomed the announcement on Twitter, saying it was always pleased to see action to drive down rates of suicide in vulnerable communities.
Ex-servicemen are 18 per cent more likely to commit suicide, and ex-servicewomen are twice as likely to take their own lives as other Australian women.
Ina Mullins, Lifeline manager of public affairs, said she hoped the announcement offered hope to any veteran struggling as a result of their service and to families that have lost loved ones.
“There have been several courageous family members advocating for additional support for veterans upon their return from service,” Mullins said.
She said it was important during the inquiry for community and mental health organisations and the broader community to look out for anyone who might be struggling.
“We remind people to look out for those around them. If you think someone may be struggling, it’s important to start the conversation and help people seek support if they need it,” she said.
As well as investigating past and new deaths, the commissioner will make a number of recommendations to improve health and wellbeing. A veteran family advocate will also be established to communicate with veterans and their families during the inquiry.
The government has committed $40 million to set up the new role, with an interim report due in 12 months, and a final report to be submitted after 18 months.
If you, or anyone you know needs support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.