A Brisbane doctor who contacted the army on behalf of a former soldier seeking assistance was rebuffed because the man was no longer an active member of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), a royal commission hearing has been told.
- The royal commission heard Jarrod Brown took his own life months after the Army refused him help
- His mother told the commission she did not know where to turn to help him
- A father tells the commission the RAAF offered his son no support when he failed flight training
The Brisbane hearing of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide was told the former soldier took his own life later that year.
Queensland mother Jasmin Carmel told the hearing her son Jarrod Brown had lost close friends during two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ms Carmel said upon his return to Australia and subsequent discharge from the ADF, he became depressed and she was at a loss over how to help him.
Counsel assisting the royal commission Peter Singleton asked Ms Carmel about her son’s admission to Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital mental health unit in 2015.
Ms Carmel said the attending doctor had called the Enoggera army barracks in Brisbane in an attempt to connect Mr Brown with ongoing mental health support.
“And what did they say?” Mr Singleton asked Ms Carmel.
She replied: “That Jarrod was not a current, serving member.”
Mr Singleton: “And what did that mean for the support the ADF would give?”
Ms Carmel: “Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I had no idea what to do next.
“So I took Jarrod home. And I feel like I’ve let him down, and I know that’s not rational thinking but I didn’t know where to turn.”
Mr Carmel took his own life on December 5, 2015.
No career counselling or psychological support on offer
The commission also heard from the parents of James Fernandez de Viana, who was just 26 years old when he took his own life at RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia on July 25, 2019.
His father, Michael Fernandez de Viana, said his son had been a healthy 24-year-old when he joined the air force.
He said his son was given no career counselling or psychological support after failing flight training, effectively extinguishing his childhood dream of becoming a pilot.
“There was some failure of some flying tests, although he did certainly pass the initial solo flying … it became harder and harder and really stressful for him,” Mr Fernandez de Viana said.
Mr Fernandez de Viana said he had been unable to contact his son because his phone was turned off, and he called on the ADF to implement a contact system for families to raise an alarm.
“There was no process for Defence acting on behalf of families to get a welfare check, which is what I had wanted to do,” he said.
“And they (the ADF) are meant to be the caretaker family while they’re away from home.
“I had no way to contact him, reaching him, and all I could do was wait for the morning and try again.
“But unfortunately around 3am or 4am on that Thursday morning he’d taken the decision to end his life.”
The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide has heard 10 days of evidence in Brisbane.
It will resume in February with hearings in Sydney.