Veteran and Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel

Definitions

Definitions and data relating to defence and veteran suicide can be found at Life in Mind.

There is an ongoing concern in the Australian community about suicide in serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel. In particular, ex-serving ADF personnel have historically faced an increased risk of suicide.

Reducing the rate of serving and ex-serving ADF personnel suicide is a priority for the Australian Government. To guide government action on this issue, a Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide has been established.

The Mindframe team works to support media and communications professionals as an important source of information for the community on issues relating to defence and veteran suicide.

The Mindframe team encourages media and communication professionals to adhere to the Guidelines for Reporting Suicide and Mental Ill-Health.

Issues to consider when communicating about defence and veteran suicide

When preparing content related to defence and veteran suicide please consider the following:

  • Should I tell the story? Should I tell it now? Context is important when reporting on defence and veteran suicide. Consider what else may be impacting on the community at this time and the current volume and prominence of defence and veteran or suicide-related reporting. A succession of stories can normalise suicidal behaviour.
  • Make it count. Ensure your reporting is purposeful and provides the community with more than awareness that a death has occurred. Can you provide a call to action or information that may help the community?
  • Language. Ensure the language you use does not glamorise or sensationalise suicide. Use terms that are person-centred and strengths-focused where possible, avoiding language that might discourage someone from seeking help. Read more about safe language.
  • Avoid details about method. The method and location of a suicide death should not be described, displayed, or pictured. Read more.
  • Give hope. Focus on personal stories about veterans who have overcome suicidal thinking to promote hope and encourage others to seek help. Other stories could describe the steps taken to get through a difficult time.

Issues to consider when communicating on the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide

Please consider the following when you are preparing your content related to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide:

  • Remember that the while the Royal Commission may be validating for those in defence and veteran communities, it may also be distressing. Be mindful of this when approaching people for comment or interview.
  • Consider how you frame the information that is released, including which stories to report, the angle used, information to include, and whose voices are included.
  • Consider the prominence and frequency of reporting on the Royal Commission. Frequent and prominent reporting can increase distress in the community.

Issues to consider when communicating on defence and veteran suicide data

The National Suicide and Self-Harm Monitoring System and the ABS Causes of Death data contain complex and highly specific figures.

When reporting defence and veteran suicide-related data please:

  • Remember that data does not show the full impact of suicide deaths. Each person that is represented by these numbers has also left behind family, friends, and communities who are also impacted by this tragic death.
  • Be mindful that the number of suicide deaths can fluctuate from one period to the next. Comparisons made in the defence and veteran populations need to be interpreted with caution and reported in context. Seeking expert opinion can assist in providing context and perspective.
  • Report on suicide rates, as opposed to suicide numbers. A coronial revision process is common in deaths that are a result of suicide. These processes may result in the number of suicide deaths changing as this process is finalised.

Help-seeking

Evidence shows that people are more likely to seek help when appropriate services are included in communication referencing suicide. It is important to include:

  • Two support services that operate 24 hours, seven days a week
  • Direct links to services in online content
  • Services that are relevant to the Defence and Veteran populations

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