Week from hell as five servicemen die by suicide

 

Five current and ex-service members have taken their own lives in the past week, an inquiry into the federal government's proposed commission to ­investigate defence suicides has heard.

The shocking revelation comes as a senate committee was yesterday warned the National Commissioner for ­Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention must be independent and have a clear scope to investigate all matters relevant to mental health.

Veteran lawyer Greg Isolani told the inquiry the draft bill "doesn't even talk about attempted suicides".

Jesse Bird, an Afghan veteran, died by suicide in June 2017. Picture: Supplied
Jesse Bird, an Afghan veteran, died by suicide in June 2017. Picture: Supplied

But representatives from the Att­orney-General's department insisted the Commissioner was able to investigate attempted suicides, arguing no one raised a concern about the specific wording during a four-week consultation period.

The federal Government announced the Commissioner following a Save Our Heroes campaign by The Daily Telegraph, promising the final agency would have all the powers of a royal commission.

David Finney - a navy engineer who killed himself after a battle with PTSD.
David Finney - a navy engineer who killed himself after a battle with PTSD.

 

Karen Bird, whose son Jesse took his own life in 2017 at the age of 32, told the inquiry the current state of mental health among vulnerable service ­people was acute.

"One-in-three to one-in-four who enter military service, leave with some kind of mental trauma as a result of their service," Ms Bird said.

"Five serving and ex-service members have taken their own lives in the last week."

An Afghanistan war veteran, Jesse, died alone and surrounded by service medal and paperwork for his military compensation claim.

His girlfriend Connie Boglis told senators she was concerned the Commissioner could end up being $42.5 million of "wasted taxpayer money".

Julie-Ann Finney, whose veteran son David took his life in 2019, said she and other families were seeking genuine solutions, not simply a platform to "tell their stories".

"My son is dead," she said. "Full stop. I have to learn to live with it."

Ms Finney told the inquiry she was concerned interim commissioner Bernadette Boss could not be truly impartial due to her long association with the Australian Defence Force.

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Originally published as Week from hell as five servicemen die by suicide



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