OPINION – ROSS EASTGATE, Townsville Bulletin
September 30, 2016
HERE’S a must attend event for your diaries if you are in Sydney on October 13 — a Thursday as it happens, so it is not ominous.
It’s the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation annual fundraising dinner, whose objective is to “decrease distress, disability and the causes of depression and anxiety in the legal profession”.
The foundation works to highlight issues of mental illness in the legal profession, including among law students, graduates, practising lawyers and judges.
Tristan was a University of New South Wales law graduate, a writer and comedian diagnosed with clinical depression in 1998, who committed suicide by drug overdose on October 28, 2004, aged 26.
Now that we media commentators are actually allowed to report unnecessary, senseless deaths as suicide, it was courageous of Tristan’s colleagues to describe his death as such. But then again they are lawyers and legal descriptions are allowed to be more brutal.
Lawyers are not the only profession to commit suicide.
Among the most at risk groups are doctors, dentists, veterinarians and other professionals who understand the easiest mechanisms to end their lives.
Anaesthetists are a particularly high risk group, though one can only wonder why.
Children of Vietnam veterans also have been identified as high risk, as those of us of that generation can only painfully testify.
Experience now tells us all military combat veterans sit in that identified high risk group, and we all despair as we try to identify causes, triggers and determine how we can prevent that. A close mate who blew his brains out in his lounge chair having been diagnosed with the degenerative Huntington’s disease might be easy to understand, but the 30-year-old high-achieving Vietnam veteran’s anaesthetist daughter is more difficult to comprehend. Here in Townsville we watched but didn’t comprehend how an East Timor veteran pleaded for help before ending his life a few weeks ago.
Speak to any surviving veteran and each has a story of a mate, a sibling or a mate’s partner or child who has suicided.
And we continue to struggle to understand why.
Thank goodness for the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation. However, questions have been raised about its choice of guest speaker, current Australian of the Year and former Chief of Army David Morrison.
In the wake of the alleged Jedi Council scandal, Morrison crucified a senior officer who denied any involvement, and was initially cleared of any involvement before Morrison decided to sacrifice him and his career on the altar of the dysfunctional defence PR organisation. While the affected individual has continued to protest his innocence, most notably in Sydney’sDaily Telegraph, he has also admitted he has been consumed with what the medical specialists describe as “suicidal ideation”.
He had been treated disgracefully by Morrison, and the ADF hierarchy has done nothing obvious to defend him.
He’s probably not alone.
If you or someone you know needs help, phone Lifeline on 131 114.