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Suicidal behaviour and ideation among military personnel: Australian and international trends – literature review

Suicidal behaviour and ideation among military personnel: Australian and international trendsThis literature review was funded under the Department of Veterans' Affairs Applied Research Program and conducted by the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention.  The review examined Australian and international sources to determine prevalence and risk factors for suicide and non-fatal suicidal behaviour in serving and ex-serving military personnel.  

Fifty-one Australian and international papers and reports were included in the review.  The review indicated that there is no current research that would allow a comparison of suicide mortality rates between Australian ex-serving personnel and the general community.  However, there is some evidence that Australian Vietnam veterans could be at increased risk of non-fatal suicidal behaviour and suicidal ideation.  Other research suggests that veterans might experience veteran-specific risk factors such as difficulty returning to civilian life and a reluctance to seek help for their problems.  International research, from the United States in particular, provides a different spectrum of evidence.  However, international findings have limited generalisability to the Australian context due to differing military sizes, operational tempo, models of health care, and access to firearms.

The limited number of Australian publications available for review points to the need for high-quality studies that analyse the prevalence of and risk factors for suicide among Australian ex-serving personnel. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs, in collaboration with the Department of Defence, is continuing to explore rates of suicidal behaviour and ideation as part of its Transition and Wellbeing Research Programme.

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