OPERATION Life OnlineFacts and myths about suicideThere is a lot of inaccurate informationaround about suicide. This website aims toprovide the facts and dispel the myths forthe ex-service community.
OPERATION Life OnlineFact: The actual rate of suicide in the Australian DefenceForces is lower than in the general populationThe 2010 ADF Mental Health Prevalence and WellbeingStudy has identified that suicidal ideation and making aplan to suicide is higher in the ADF than the generalpopulation but the actual rate of suicide is lower. Thissuggests that there are protective factors that assist servingpersonnel to seek care. It is important that ex-servingpersonnel also understand the range of support optionsavailable to them.Hodson, S.E. McFarlane, A.C., Van Hooff, M. & Davies, C. (2011) Mental Health in theAustralian Defence Force 2010 ADF Mental Health Prevalence and Wellbeing Study ExecutiveReport accessible at http://www.defence.gov.au/DMH
OPERATION Life OnlineSuicide in the ex-service communityProfessor David Dunt undertook a study to investigate theprevalence of suicide within the ex-service community. Hisstudy recommended the conduct of the 2010 ADF MentalHealth Prevalence and Wellbeing Study.Professor Dunt’s study was inconclusive on whether suicidewas more prevalent in the ex-service community than thegeneral population.Dunt, D. (2009) Independent study into suicide in the Ex-service community accessible athttp://www.dva.gov.au/healthandwellbeing
OPERATION Life OnlineFact: More men than women die by suicideeach year in AustraliaSuicide is about four times more common in menthan women. In Australia in 2010, 1,816 males and545 females completed suicide.Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012) Suicides Australia 2010(Catalogue No. 33090.0)
OPERATION Life OnlineFact: There are known risk factors for suicideKnowing the risk factors for suicide helps to raiseawareness and improve education to preventsuicide. To understand the risk factors for suicidein the ex-service community, click here.
OPERATION Life OnlineFact: There are known protective factorsagainst suicideProtective factors are the positive conditionsand social resources that promote wellbeing andreduce the potential for suicide (as well as otherrelated high-risk behaviours). To understandprotective factors against suicide in the ex-service community, click here.
OPERATION Life OnlineFact: Belonging to the ex-service communitycan help to prevent suicideWhen an ex-service man or woman is in contact with othermembers of the ex-service community it provides themwith a network of support that protects against suicide.Many suicides in the community can be prevented throughsuicide awareness raising education and activities withincommunities like VVCS’ Operation Life suicide preventionworkshops. Please click here for VVCS website.However, suicides can still occur even when people are wellconnected to their community and if you know someonewho has suicided, click here for more information.
OPERATION Life OnlineFact: Grieving after suicide is different to othertypes of deathGrieving after suicide is different compared with othertypes of death as following a death by suicide, many griefresponses are significantly intensified and may beoverwhelming. As there is stigma attached to suicide, it isdifficult for family and friends to grieve. There are alwaysquestions about ‘what if’ and ‘if only’. This is why supportafter death by suicide is very important. If you find that youor someone else you care about is dwelling on adeath, including thinking about it when you or they don’twant to, you should seek help. Click here to seek help now
OPERATION Life OnlineMyth: There is a typical profile for a personwho dies by suicidePeople of all ages, races, faiths, and cultures die bysuicide, as do individuals from all walks of life andall income levels. Popular, well connected peoplewho seem to have everything going for them andthose who appear less confident or vulnerable dieby suicide. Suicidal people come from all kinds offamilies, rich and poor, happy and sad, two-parentand single parent, civilian and ex-servicecommunity members.
OPERATION Life OnlineMyth: You should never ask someone if theyare having suicidal thoughtsTalking about suicide does not cause suicide to occur. In fact, itcan be a good way to help prevent suicide. Asking someone“Are you thinking of suicide?” directly will give the person theopportunity and permission to talk about suicide. People whoare not suicidal reject the idea, while people who may bethinking about it usually welcome the chance to talk about it.Often suicidal people are relieved because they feel thatsomeone else recognises their pain. Talking breaks the secrecyof the person who is feeling suicidal, and lets them know thatthere is help available. By not talking about suicide, theisolation and despair felt by suicidal individuals can get worse.
OPERATION Life OnlineMyth: I must honour my promise to keep secretthat someone I know is going to suicideWhen someone tells you that they are thinkingof suicide you must not agree to keep it a secret.Let them know that you need to involve othersto keep yourself and the person at risk safe.Secrecy only increases the sense of stigmaaround suicide.
OPERATION Life OnlineMyth: All suicidal people have a mental illnessNot all suicidal people suffer from a mental illness. Ex-servicemen and women and others who appear to be happy, with"normal" lives and no history or mental illness have takentheir 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, ifuntreated, can lead to suicide, but mental illness is not theonly factor that can lead to suicide. In fact, there may be manyother contributing factors and some forms of mental illnessmay also protect against suicide.
OPERATION Life OnlineMyth: Suicides always occur without warningMost suicidal people show warning signs before a suicide attempt.Some early warning signs include: crying, loss of interest in previouslypleasurable activities, rage, anger, seeking revenge, actingreckless/engaging in risky activities, feeling trapped, increasing alcoholor drug use, withdrawing from friends, family orsociety, anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep/sleeping all the time, givingaway possessions, dramatic changes in mood or no reason for living orsense of purpose in life. Some late warning signs include: someonethreatening to hurt or kill themselves, looking for the means to killthemselves (gun, pills, rope etc.), and someone talking or writingabout death, dying or suicide.
OPERATION Life OnlineMyth: People who are suicidal always want todiePeople who are thinking of suicide are in painand cannot find a reason to live more thanwanting to die.
OPERATION Life OnlineMyth: People who talk about suicide areunlikely to go through with itAll conversations about suicide should be takenseriously, you might be the only person who has listenedand acted to save a life. Whenever anyone tells you thatthey are thinking about suicide you must keep themphysically safe and seek professional help for them bycontacting a GP, VVCS or other support service. You mustalso ensure that you look after yourself and seek help ifyou need to talk about your experience.
OPERATION Life OnlineMyth: There is nothing that can protectsomeone from suicideThere 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 yourphysical and mental health;•Financial security;•Personal skills and resilience;•Having a belief system; and•Talking to someone you trust about your thoughts and feelings andgetting timely help.Click to read more about protective factors