MEDIA STATEMENT FROM SOLDIER ON
Soldier On calls on government for funding to save veterans’ lives
Yesterday the government released data about veteran suicide. This data tells a tragic story.
When a male is serving full time in the Australian Defence Force, the risk of him taking his own life is 53 percent lower than the national average. But when he leaves the Defence Force, this risk significantly increases to 13 percent higher than the national average.
If he is aged 18 – 24, the risk shockingly increases to almost twice that of the national average, adjusted for age.
This indicates the support network within the armed forces often safeguards our serving members from suicide, despite them enduring traumatic experiences. But when this support network disappears once a veteran leaves the Defence Force, the battle of dealing with his time as a soldier, sailor or airman can take a devastating toll without the comfort of his mates, unit, purpose and sense of identity.
While these statistics do not shock us, they do deeply sadden us; particularly when it is noted that these statistics only consider veteran suicide deaths until 2014.
Research from the Herald Sun earlier this year indicates the rate of veteran suicide has significantly increased since then. We must ask why? We must ask what more can we do?
For years Soldier On has been advocating that our veterans need more support. That’s why we started Soldier On in the first place. These findings reinforce that message.
This is not a new problem. We know previous generations of veterans struggled for the rest of their lives. However, what makes us different as a generation to those before us is we now have a much better understanding of the impacts of service in the defence forces. Yet despite this knowledge, we are still not providing the right support services and opportunities for them.
As a country, we can’t change history but we can stop it from repeating.
We often hear feedback from veterans supported by Soldier On that our services saved their life – a heartening and yet bittersweet expression of thanks.
We have support services and mechanisms for veterans and families that save lives, but we don’t have enough funding to reach veterans right across Australia.
We know our services are desperately needed in the regional Australia. We know this because locals often contact us asking why we don’t have services in those locations.
Currently, the only way we can reach more veterans and families is through the generosity of mums, dads, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunties – the everyday people of Australia – as well as corporates, philanthropists, grants and trusts.
In our existence, government funding has contributed to less than one percent of overall funds.
In four-and-a-half short years, Soldier On has achieved remarkable outcomes for veterans and families. But with government funding, we could achieve so much more.
As an organisation comprised of veterans, family members of veterans and passionate staff, we cannot sit by any longer and watch veteran suicide rates climb. We will not ignore that members of the veteran community are struggling.
We are putting the call out to the Australian Government: Provide Soldier On with funding so we can provide vital employment support, mental health support and social connected programs and activities to more veterans and families around Australia.
These support services are saving lives. Let us save more lives.