A psychiatrist in Brisbane who specialises in military and veterans’ mental health has warned that Australia should expect that the suicide rate to dramatically increase in future years due to involvement in the war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Australian Defence Force says four Afghanistan veterans – one had also seen duty in Iraq– have committed suicide. All were still in military service when they took their lives. Accurate records are not kept of suicides among veterans once they rejoin the civilian world.
Psychiatrist Dr Andrew Koo also warns about complacency stating that:
“The best evidence we have is US figures, which show the number of veterans who return from overseas service but then go on in the future to kill themselves typically far outweighs those killed in action,”
“I am hoping the Australian mental health system is better than the US,” he says, “but I think we are naive if we think our suicides are at least not going to equal those killed in combat.”
The Australian Defense Force (ADF) predicts that 8 percent of the service men and women who have seen combat service between 2002 and 2009 could develop PTSD. That’s approximately 2500 people. With the knowledge of this alarming prospect the mental health system needs to start preparing now to cope with the dramatic increase in consumers.