Dad takes own life after defence rejects pleas for help
Afghanistan and Iraq veteran Adrian Wells took his own life in August after the Department of Veterans Affairs rejected his appeal for help.
Yesterday, the young father-of-two's family were among widows, parents and siblings of veterans to throw their support behind The Daily Telegraph's Save Our Heroes Summit.
The summit, at NSW Parliament House next month, will address the issue of veteran suicide and give voice to the mothers of five veterans who have committed suicide after leaving the defence force.
Mr Wells, 33, did several overseas tours before he was medically discharged in 2013. His sister-in-law Kaylene Wells said he had sought help for mental and physical injuries from his service.
"Just before he took his life, Adrian was informed his DVA claims were rejected," she said.
"The department failed him. The army was everything to him and once the claim was rejected he felt like what was the whole point of serving for a decade. He was proud. Everything was to do with the army but it got to a stage where he said they're going to let him down.
"Adrian put away his medals and was like he wasn't proud. Why would he be proud when they didn't help?"
The Daily Telegraph's Save Our Heroes campaign has backed calls from mother Julie-Ann Finney for a royal commission into veteran suicide after her navy poster-boy son Dave took his own life when his pleas for help to the Department of Veterans Affairs went unheeded.
Summit panellist and military researcher Deborah Morris from Griffith University said: "With an unprecedented rate of veterans killing themselves, the people of Australia have a right to know how our government cares for our veterans."
And she welcomed an independent discussion on the issue. "So far, conversations about veteran suicide have been managed by the government - particularly DVA.
The importance of this summit is that it brings together lived experience and expertise on a platform that has not been available to families of veterans impacted by suicide.
"We have heard from the government, we have heard from both the ADF and DVA, and now we will finally hear from the people who live the experience on a daily basis."
Australian War Memorial board member Gwen Churne's husband Peter took his own life two years ago. She said the summit was vital because "if we break them we are responsible for helping them heal.
"We need to commit more into the mental health of our servicemen and women throughout their career and afterwards," Ms Churne said.
And she called for more help for the families of veterans. "When our servicemen and women are transitioning out we are not involving their families as well and educating them about the risks," she said.
The summit will also be attended by readers of The Daily Telegraph. If you would like to be one of them please email firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us, in 25 words or less, why you would like to come.
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