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Defence force chief says more needed to combat suicide

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The head of the Australian Defense Force admits that the military is not doing enough to prevent suicide and suicide of members and veterans, but says the armed forces are on the right track.

General Angus Campbell was testifying on the fourth day of the last round of the Royal Commission at the Veterans Defense and Suicide Hearing in Townsville, less than two weeks before his term ended July 6.

“Defense is not doing enough to reduce the incidence of suicide and suicide,” he said of the investigation after arriving in Queensland on Thursday.

The Australian Defense Forces sees about 50 per cent of its members arrive and leave every seven years, General Campbell said, adding culture change “takes time to develop”.

“We’re on an ongoing journey, but I think we’re in the right place in terms of the direction we’re going,” he said.

General Campbell revealed that he did not receive any transmission briefings or had any discussions regarding suicide and suicide in the ADF when he took the top job in 2018.

Assistance attorney Kevin Connor SC asked if he considered this an omission and if that would change in the future, the general said there was a process when new leadership came.

However, this did not mean that he was not fully aware of the problem with the army and the defense forces.

When Mr. Connor weighed in, General Campbell recognized the defense’s ability to keep information about former ADF members a particular area that needed to be improved.

“Have you accepted now there are major shortcomings in the ability to maintain data on former serving members?” Mr. Connor was at risk.

General Campbell responded: “I do, counselor.

“And the way they need to get to improve that?” Mr. Connor followed.

“I agree with that, counselor,” the general said.

Then Mr. Connor said “I suggest you need to get them relatively quick, since it’s a tough process,” with which the general agreed.

General Campbell added: “Rigor – and it will create for us a common perspective through the defense and the DVA (Department of Veterans Affairs), which will be invaluable to the well-being of our people.

The general questioned his statement in response to the commission’s question, including why there was no annual public report on data related to suicide by defense.

General Campbell said he would take that with the defense minister.

“I’m completely comfortable with the suggestion,” he told the audience.

“I hope it will be a conversation that will lead to the results you have proposed.”

Mr. Connor pointed to the current main defense data system and asked if the general thought they should examine and pick up suicide-related events.

“Yes, I am a counselor, but I am not yet confident through the force that every circumstance under the big rubric of suicide is detected, reported, recorded.”

Earlier, the commission heard post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans could have cascading effects on families and particularly children.

Associate Professor Ben Edwards and Dr. Galina Daraganova provided evidence on a 2014 Vietnam Veterans Family Study on the physical, mental and social health of the sons and daughters of Vietnam veterans.

They discussed how PTSD and suicide affected the families of veterans and how the results of the study carried weight for other groups of male and female services.

“The story here is really about PTSD and their fathers, and how this cascades across generations and has intergenerational influence, and I think that’s a very solid conclusion,” Professor Edwards said.

“There is no doubt in my mind, based on the evidence … that this could potentially be an issue for other groups serving men and women.”

The commission heard PTSD a veteran may present as an absence or detachment and explosive behavior, with high rates of harsh or hostile parents.

The study found 21 percent of Vietnam’s veteran adult children were either diagnosed or treated for depression, 41 percent had suicidal ideation and 12 percent reported suicide plans or actions.

-AAP

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Defence force chief says more needed to combat suicide Source link Defence force chief says more needed to combat suicide

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