President of Hervey Bay RSL Sub-Branch Brian Tidyman speaking at Remembrance Day at Hervey Bay.
President of Hervey Bay RSL Sub-Branch Brian Tidyman speaking at Remembrance Day at Hervey Bay.

MORE TO BE DONE: Tackling veteran suicide

NOT enough is being done to support Australia's veterans according to the president of the Hervey Bay RSL Sub-Branch.

Brian Tidyman knows from experience the horrors of war never really leave you.

But just like Mr Tidyman did when returning from Vietnam more than 40 years ago, veterans often fight a different battle back home.

It's a battle with their mental scars that don't heal the same way as the physical ones.

According to a study commissioned by the Department of Veterans' Affairs, male veterans under the age of 30 had a suicide rate more than two times the national average for men the same age.

The Sunday Telegraph reported at least eight Australian veterans had taken their own lives since Anzac Day this year and there were 49 such deaths last year.

It's a sad statistic which Mr Tidyman considers "a national disgrace".

"I think the Department of Veteran's Affairs needs to stand up," he said.

"I think the process for helping these young blokes out needs to be improved dramatically.

"They come home and are given a white card with the contact details of someone to talk to for their mental issues but the biggest problem why these people are suiciding is the delay in processing their claims.

While much has changed since Mr Tidyman returned from war, he believes more needs to be done to protect younger veterans against suicide.

"I thought I was fine, I suppressed a lot. Then almost 30 years after coming home I was having a beer at the pub. A car in the carpark went over a grate and it made a big bang. I threw the beer and thought we were being bombed and broke down," he said.

It didn't help that Vietnam veterans were ostracised.

"The head of the RSL I tried to join shook my hand and said 'glad to see you home, now piss off, you didn't serve in a real war'," Mr Tidyman said.

"I don't care, where you served, you have done your job. Every war is different. I try very hard here to respect anyone who has served their country whether they stayed in Australia or served in another country."

Fellow Hervey Bay veteran Phillip Hodges, who also served in Vietnam, believes a Royal Commission into veterans suicide might be the answer.

"Even though it was 40 years ago it seems like yesterday," he told the Chronicle.

"It took me 30 years but it all caught up with me and I broke down. There isn't a day goes by I don't think about Vietnam. (My mates and their wives) looked after me and got me into a good doctor who had studied post traumatic stress syndrome.

"My two sons went into the military, the oldest one did Somalia all the way through. He has more medals than I do and the young son, he went to Iraq and it affected him that much he is now on a pension too.

"It does affect people, we have to look after the ones who are coming back.

"I was really surprised by the amount of young ones today who commit suicide because they feel there is no hope or they try and get help … it has to change. I am a person who really believes there should be a Royal Commission into the DVA.

"If we are willing to send someone overseas we need to be able to look after them when they come home."

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