Julia Gillard

The Chair of Beyond Blue, The Hon. Julia Gillard AC

This very special Remembrance Day, I want to acknowledge the work of our servicemen and women and thank them for their extraordinary contribution to our country.

As Prime Minister, I met Diggers both at home and abroad. I did not presume to know what their lives were like, rather I did my best to listen. As a result, I heard about grief for fallen mates, fatigue from multiple tours and pride in all that had been achieved.

Our nation owes them all so much.

Today I want to remember those who lost their lives in combat, and also those who lost their lives off the battlefield.

It has been 100 years since the guns fell silent on the Western Front, but now, as then, returning home can mean dealing with memories of trauma. It might also mean leaving close mates and having to find a new support network.

At Beyond Blue, we know that service can take a toll on the mental health and wellbeing of members of our defence force.

Too many veterans have taken their own lives. Three hundred and seventy-three died by suicide between 2001 and 2016. Suicide rates for male veterans are 18 per cent higher than rates for men in the general community.

Three quarters of veterans will meet the criteria for a mental health condition at some stage in their lives and 46 per cent experienced a mental health condition in the past year. Nearly one quarter of veterans have to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Yet, if the Invictus Games have shown us anything, it is that these men and women can and do overcome challenges to both their mental wellbeing and physical health.

That they can rise above it. Their best allies in that fight are often their friends and families. There are many people and organisations doing excellent work to support our veteran community.

But one thing we can all do is to talk. You don’t have to be an expert to talk about mental health or listen to someone who might be thinking about suicide. Being there can make a difference. 

Beyond Blue can help you find the words to have that all important conversation. We are also working specifically to support veterans who have attempted suicide through a program called The Way Back Support Service.

You can find information about discussing suicide here or visit veterans’ counselling service Open Arms: https://www.openarms.gov.au/

Related reading: A word from Julia: How to have a conversation about suicide

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