Why are soldiers taking their own lives?

Our expert panel brings together medical experts and social scientists to discuss the growing problem of military suicide - why is it happening and how should it be addressed politically?

In 2015 more Australian military personnel and veterans took their lives than were killed in Afghanistan during 13 years of war. In the US, military suicide could rightly be described as an epidemic; suicide rates for service members have risen dramatically since 2001 and doubled in 2012.

In the UK, service members have historically been less likely to die by suicide than the general population. However, since 2008 the rates of military suicide have increased and they now surpass civilian rates – and each year these rates have continued to increase. Why do soldiers take their own lives?

Answering this question requires a range of interdisciplinary perspectives, including those from medical experts – with extensive knowledge of mental health, post-traumatic stress disorder, and traumatic brain injury – and social scientists who have knowledge of military politics, policy, and operations.

This panel will bring together a range of interdisciplinary researchers to explore diverse perspectives on why soldiers take their own lives and how military suicide can and should be addressed politically. Our panellists will include a medical anthropologist, gender and war expert and military veteran.

This event was held at the University of Sydney on Tuesday 20 November 2018.


  • Megan MacKenzie is Professor of Gender and War in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. MacKenzie has published on a range of topics ranging from sexual violence in war, truth and reconciliation commissions, to gender and the military. Her current projects focus on military suicide, military sexual violence, and images and war. Her most recent book, Beyond the Band of Brothers: the US Military and the Myth that Women Can’t Fight, has been cited in top international outlets, including the Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, and the New York Times. 
  • Kenneth MacLeish is an Assistant Professor of Medicine, Health and Society and Anthropology at Vanderbilit University in the United States. He studies how war, broadly considered, takes shape in the everyday lives of people whose job it is to produce it- US military servicemembers and their families and communities. His most recent book is, Making War: Everyday Life at Ft. Hood, which draws on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork at and around the US Army’s Fort Hood in Texas. 
  • Ben Wadham is a sociologist and served in the Australian Regular Army. His main research interest is militarism and the military in Australia. He is currently Chief Investigator on an Australian Research Council Grant titled "Institutional Abuse and Organisational Reform within the ADF (1969-). He has recently published Criminologies of the Military: Militarism, National Security and Justice. A co-authored book chapter entitled Military Past, Civilian Present: International Perspectives on Veteran’s Transition from the Armed Forces’ will be published in early 2019.
  • Shane Greentree is a clinical psychologist and the National Psychology Services Director at Soldier On. Soldier On provides support to contemporary serving and former serving veterans and their families through a range of services from clinical psychology, social connection, employment and education and sports recovery. Shane worked for over a decade in the government sector and private practice before joining Soldier On in 2016. Areas of clinical interest include attachment and trauma/complex trauma, interpersonal violence, men’s health and military mental health.
  • Jackie Dent is a journalist and communications specialist.  She has been published in the New York Times, the Sydney Morning Herald, Monocle, Reuters, the ABC, the Guardian and many other publications. She was a spokesperson for the United Nations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, South Sudan and North Ossetia. She is currently completing her PhD at the University of Sydney on "The Pleasures of War".

Sign up for our newsletter

Each month we'll send you details about upcoming events, and a selection of podcasts.

You might also like