This post deals with suicide and might be triggering for some readers.
It was Monday afternoon and Prime Minister Scott Morrison had just announced the Royal Commission into veteran suicides. A short while later, a grieving mother entered the gates of a cemetery as she slowly walked towards her son's grave. It was the first time she’d been there in over a year.
Julie-Ann Finney had come to tell him the news, as tears welled in her eyes.
“I had to tell him that we’ve got this far, but we’ve got further to go," she shares, her voice breaking. "It was incredibly traumatic. I don't think I am ready to let him go yet."
This ANZAC Day, Ms Finney tells Mamamia that today is about “remembering every veteran who has passed away”.
“It's very easy to forget that we live in this beautiful, great country. But there are many who have died keeping this country free. And it doesn't matter how they've died, their service must be remembered.”
Since 2001, more Australian veterans have died by suicide than have been killed in active service. Whilst the official statistic from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs says there were 419 suicides between 2001 and 2017, one veteran who collected his own statistics found there were actually 731 suicides in that time period.
In 2019, Ms Finney’s son was one of them.
Listen: The Quicky speaks to two experts, to find out why even veterans who never see combat are left feeling desperate and what services are available to help them.
David Finney enjoyed a 20-year career in the Australian Royal Navy, enlisting himself when he was just 18 years old. He was inspired to join the Navy because of his father, who spent 25 years in the services.
“He was a very, very proud sailor,” Ms Finney shares. “He loved his career - the travel, the friendships, the family, the challenges, the accolades, really everything about his career was good until he broke.”
Ms Finney recalls that around 2017 she began to identify signs of post-traumatic stress disorder in her son.
“Every night he experienced nightmares and was waking up, sweating, crying and not being able to sleep.”
After an attempted suicide that left him in hospital, David was discharged from the Navy on medical grounds in December 2017.
Ms Finney carries great anger, palpable in her voice, that the military “just got rid of him”.
“When these young men and women break, the military discharges them medically. They never try to rehabilitate or get them back on track to work. They just discard them. And they have nothing to do with them again.”