Bathurst RSL Sub Branch president David Mills has welcomed the Australian government's launch of a royal commission into veteran suicides, calling it "long overdue."
On Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a royal commission would commence before the end of July amidst mounting pressure from former soldiers, their families and both government and opposition MPs.
Mr Mills said the royal commission has plenty of potential to change the game regarding treatment for ex-servicemen and women suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses.
"A royal commission is certainly needed, anything that reduces the number of veteran suicides and enhances support will be well worth it," he said.
According to statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, suicide rates are 21 per cent higher among ex-servicemen in comparison to the general Australian male population.
The same statistics found the rate of suicide among ex-servicewomen is twice as high as Australian women in general.
Mr Mills said the issue of veteran suicide has had direct impacts on some members.
"When we look at the profile of clients our military advocates support, suicide is an obvious issue we're regularly made aware of," he said.
"It affects both ex-servicemen and women, the latter of whom are more often forgotten about, and we hope this will be addressed in the royal commission."
Mr Mills said a common factor affecting the wellbeing of veterans is negative sentiments of war, which often marginalise the stories of individual soldiers simply doing their duty.
"Negative or derogatory statements made about a particular campaign or a select group of servicepeople has the potential to significantly impact the mental wellbeing of an individual who served," he said.
"Unfortunately, too many people are succumbing to 'the battle within', so it must be addressed sensitively and compassionately."
Mr Mills said the Sub Branch champions a number of initiatives to ensure local veterans are well supported in the local community.
"We have links to RSL DefenceCare, who provide financial, crisis and accommodation assistance, and through our military advocates, we have direct links to the Department of Veterans' Affairs," he said.
"On a practical basis, we host a Friday morning catch-up over coffee for our members and other local veterans, providing a opportunity to connect socially over shared experiences."
"At the end of the day, these simple interactions can go a very long way."
Current or former ADF members and their families are able to reach out for counselling or support via the Defence All-Hours Support Line on 1800 628 036, Open Arms on 1800 011 046 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.
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