Why are we having so many suicides in the Veteran community? This question is something I was talking with my partner about earlier on today and I also seen it asked on The Pineapple Express Just so you are all aware we have had 9 suicides in the recent weeks.
So why does this happen?
Here are a few of my views.
• Not speaking up
One of the biggest reasons I feel we have an issue in Veteran community is the simple fact that the lads aren’t speaking up when they are in the hurt locker.
Why aren’t they speaking up?
Well there is a variety of reasons as to why this is happening. They think they are weak if they speak up about their feeling as this is something that has been smashed into soldiers for years and it is also something that has been smashed in the tough male society, that men do not talk about their feelings and just man-up.There is that stigma around PTSD, particularly in the ADF, PTSD has a terrible reputation for being a quick money grab by people receiving compensation from DVA so as a result people just hold everything in so they aren’t labelled as a malingerer and judged by their peers.There are too many opinions out there about mental health particular amongst different generations of soldiers, people tend to forget that there are over 300 diagnosable mental health conditions out there and it’s not just PTSD.
Current serving members are worried about being singled out by their rank and peers if they make it known they are suffering from a mental health condition.
• Rank not supporting diggers
I say this from my own experience in dealing with the current serving members. These members have been denied access to their mental health specific appointments as they were needed to go out field, some members were made to sign waivers to go out field even though they were on restrictions, other members were denied leave when their partners were seriously ill. Now this is just a snippet of what is going on to our current serving members and before I am called a liar, just know that all of these allegations are backed by statements and are currently being looked into. The reason I am sharing this now is because I am sick to death seeing members think that there is no other way out so they take their own life. It breaks my heart they think this is the only way. Rank saying families come first and will be supported etc. when in reality a digger may spend 9 months out field in a year and their spouses are left at home to fend for themselves. This intern causes issues in their relationships that then adds more stress on the digger and at the end of the day there is only so much someone can take.
Rank is only concerned with the ticks in the box for there next promotion so as a result it is the Digger that suffers. Being used and abused to achieve what ever tasks the COC have for them.
• Lack of professional help
Yes there are medical providers such as Openarms and other professionals out there however each of these has its downfalls. Don’t get me wrong they do help some but there are those that slip through the cracks and these are the ones that ultimately make that fatal decision.There are huge wait times to seek help as a result of the lack in number of professionals, I have had Veterans reach out to me recently stating they have been waiting since Jan this year for a session with Openarms, I have also had members reaching out stating they can’t get a hold of the Openarms international line and they have tried numerous times to try and make this happen. People don’t want to go into an enclosed office and talk, an example of something different and that works is the Equine Acceptance Therapy, this has proven to work unfortunately it can be hard to get this paid for by openarms, DVA and even the ADF. It can also take sometime to get this all approved and by that time the members involved have had enough.
DVA pay psychiatrists 30% less than what they would get if they see a civilian patient so as a result there are not as many psychiatrists available to assist, hence the huge wait times. People need to make a living and at the end of the day the treating professionals should be paid what they are due. We are just lucky that there are those that really want to help the community and make a difference. DVA has a huge budget and I could almost guarantee there would be ways to stop wasting money and pay the Dr what they deserve. (The Veterans covenant is an example of a waste of money, pretty sure we already get recognition for our service in the way of the ADM, instead DVA have put millions towards this initiative that most veterans see as being a waste) People feel as if they can’t relate to the professionals and therefore stop going after one session as they spend most of the time explaining what certain things mean when it comes to the ADF.
When a Veteran leaves the ADF for what ever reason they are leaving behind who they are and all they have known. For me when I left I didn’t know who I was or what I was doing with myself and this is such a common thing for so many of my mates. We leave behind what we think is our identity and purpose in life.Unfortunately there wasn’t any real transition programs in place when I left and what was available wasn’t really explained at unit level. I understand it is better these days however we still have similar issues with units not being there and explaining it properly to the lads.Transitioning is hard, you are at work with your best mates for years and years and then all of sudden you leave the ADF and you are no longer around your mates all the time. This affects people pretty hard and it did so for me. This is why it is crucial to check in on your mates as often as you can.
• The Media The current issues we are seeing in the media and the lack of support for our soldiers is another massive issue for the lads.
If the rank, media and civilians are all up in arms at the moment and hanging all the veterans out to dry where can those that are struggling turn to?
• DVA and Injuries
Where do I start with this one.
As a result of injuries sustained while serving some members are able to get these respected injuries recognised by the department. Now one of the biggest issues people face is the fact it is smashed into us from early in a careers is to just walk it off or she will be right attitude. Now when people discharge and they haven’t sorted out their injuries, actually trying to get the help when you do need it can be hard and as a result of not reporting these injuries while serving makes the process that much harder. People have been known to fight with DVA for years just to get some help for injuries they sustained while serving. All this could of been prevented by just reporting an injury and getting it seen to by a medical professional. Unfortunately there are those in the chain of command that will tell you to just tough it out and walk it off. DVA is essentially a business and there job is to try and meet their KPI’s, if they can disprove a claim then they save the company money. Unfortunately this can have some serious effects on the Veteran community as there is only so much people can take. Now I feel I have only just scratched the surface here.
There are those that are in the hurt locker with everything that is going on. My advice to you all is to check in on your mates. We are losing to many and in all honesty the above issues can be rectified if those that are actually in positions of power would listen to those with boots on the ground dealing with this stuff on a daily basis. Forgive me if this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense but it is late I just wanted to get this out there.