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Facts and myths about suicide
There is a lot of inaccurate information
around about suicide. This website aims to
provide the facts and dispel the myths for
the ex-service community.
Fact: The actual rate of suicide in the Australian Defence
Forces is lower than in the general population
The 2010 ADF Mental Health Prevalence and Wellbeing
Study has identified that suicidal ideation and making a
plan to suicide is higher in the ADF than the general
population but the actual rate of suicide is lower. This
suggests that there are protective factors that assist serving
personnel to seek care. It is important that ex-serving
personnel also understand the range of support options
available to them.
Hodson, S.E. McFarlane, A.C., Van Hooff, M. & Davies, C. (2011) Mental Health in the
Australian Defence Force 2010 ADF Mental Health Prevalence and Wellbeing Study Executive
Report accessible at
Suicide in the ex-service community
Professor David Dunt undertook a study to investigate the
prevalence of suicide within the ex-service community. His
study recommended the conduct of the 2010 ADF Mental
Health Prevalence and Wellbeing Study.
Professor Dunt’s study was inconclusive on whether suicide
was more prevalent in the ex-service community than the
general population.
Dunt, D. (2009) Independent study into suicide in the Ex-service community accessible at
Fact: More men than women die by suicide
each year in Australia
Suicide is about four times more common in men
than women. In Australia in 2010, 1,816 males and
545 females completed suicide.
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012) Suicides Australia 2010
(Catalogue No. 33090.0)
Fact: There are known risk factors for suicide
Knowing the risk factors for suicide helps to raise
awareness and improve education to prevent
suicide. To understand the risk factors for suicide
in the ex-service community, click here.
Fact: There are known protective factors
against suicide
Protective factors are the positive conditions
and social resources that promote wellbeing and
reduce the potential for suicide (as well as other
related high-risk behaviours). To understand
protective factors against suicide in the exservice community, click here.
Fact: Belonging to the ex-service community
can help to prevent suicide
When an ex-service man or woman is in contact with other
members of the ex-service community it provides them
with a network of support that protects against suicide.
Many suicides in the community can be prevented through
suicide awareness raising education and activities within
communities like VVCS’ Operation Life suicide prevention
workshops. Please click here for VVCS website.
However, suicides can still occur even when people are well
connected to their community and if you know someone
who has suicided, click here for more information.
Fact: Grieving after suicide is different to other
types of death
Grieving after suicide is different compared with other
types of death as following a death by suicide, many grief
responses are significantly intensified and may be
overwhelming. As there is stigma attached to suicide, it is
difficult for family and friends to grieve. There are always
questions about ‘what if’ and ‘if only’. This is why support
after death by suicide is very important. If you find that you
or someone else you care about is dwelling on a death,
including thinking about it when you or they don’t want to,
you should seek help. Click here to seek help now
Myth: There is a typical profile for a person
who dies by suicide
People of all ages, races, faiths, and cultures die by
suicide, as do individuals from all walks of life and
all income levels. Popular, well connected people
who seem to have everything going for them and
those who appear less confident or vulnerable die
by suicide. Suicidal people come from all kinds of
families, rich and poor, happy and sad, two-parent
and single parent, civilian and ex-service
community members.
Myth: You should never ask someone if they
are having suicidal thoughts
Talking about suicide does not cause suicide to occur. In fact, it
can be a good way to help prevent suicide. Asking someone
“Are you thinking of suicide?” directly will give the person the
opportunity and permission to talk about suicide. People who
are not suicidal reject the idea, while people who may be
thinking about it usually welcome the chance to talk about it.
Often suicidal people are relieved because they feel that
someone else recognises their pain. Talking breaks the secrecy
of the person who is feeling suicidal, and lets them know that
there is help available. By not talking about suicide, the
isolation and despair felt by suicidal individuals can get worse.
Myth: I must honour my promise to keep secret
that someone I know is going to suicide
When someone tells you that they are thinking
of suicide you must not agree to keep it a secret.
Let them know that you need to involve others
to keep yourself and the person at risk safe.
Secrecy only increases the sense of stigma
around suicide.
Myth: All suicidal people have a mental illness
Not all suicidal people suffer from a mental illness. Ex-service
men and women and others who appear to be happy, with
"normal" lives and no history or mental illness have taken
their own lives. Some people attempt suicide on an impulse,
often under the affects of alcohol or drugs.
Depression and anxiety and other forms of mental illness, if
untreated, can lead to suicide, but mental illness is not the
only factor that can lead to suicide. In fact, there may be many
other contributing factors and some forms of mental illness
may also protect against suicide.
Myth: Suicides always occur without warning
Most suicidal people show warning signs before a suicide attempt.
Some early warning signs include: crying, loss of interest in previously
pleasurable activities, rage, anger, seeking revenge, acting
reckless/engaging in risky activities, feeling trapped, increasing alcohol
or drug use, withdrawing from friends, family or society, anxiety,
agitation, unable to sleep/sleeping all the time, giving away
possessions, dramatic changes in mood or no reason for living or sense
of purpose in life. Some late warning signs include: someone
threatening to hurt or kill themselves, looking for the means to kill
themselves (gun, pills, rope etc.), and someone talking or writing
about death, dying or suicide.
Myth: People who are suicidal always want to
People who are thinking of suicide are in pain
and cannot find a reason to live more than
wanting to die.
Myth: People who talk about suicide are
unlikely to go through with it
All conversations about suicide should be taken seriously,
you might be the only person who has listened and acted
to save a life. Whenever anyone tells you that they are
thinking about suicide you must keep them physically safe
and seek professional help for them by contacting a GP,
VVCS or other support service. You must also ensure that
you look after yourself and seek help if you need to talk
about your experience.
Myth: There is nothing that can protect
someone from suicide
There are known protective factors against suicide which include:
•Staying connected to a community;
•Having a significant relationship with another person;
•Participating in regular physical exercise and looking after your physical and
mental health;
•Financial security;
•Personal skills and resilience;
•Having a belief system; and
•Talking to someone you trust about your thoughts and feelings and getting
timely help.
Click to read more about protective factors

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