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Suicide rates among ex-navy personnel are the highest of any branch of the military, and they’re dramatically increasing.

This is the prime concern of the Geraldton section of the Naval Association of Australia, which is being refloated.

Section president Alan Harms served 21 years, including three tours in Vietnam. He was called on to revive the fledgling group, which has expanded to about 50 members.

“There’s still a lot of blokes, farmers, they don’t even know we’re here,” he said.

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The association provides support and advocacy services for ex-servicemen and women in Geraldton, as well as social events.

For one such event, about a dozen members were invited on a fishing trip off the Abrolhos islands. The aim, Mr Harms said, was to get veterans out of the house and engaged with mates, developing a support network.

“Blokes haven’t seen each other for years, all of a sudden, wow! They see each other again,” he said.

A royal commission was launched in July to address the issue of veteran suicide nationwide, in the wake of reports of mistreatment of civilians in Afghanistan.

“Veterans were criticised for the actions in Afghanistan, all of that eats away at people’s mentality, and they need support to say ‘it wasn’t your fault’,” Mr Harms said.

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The suicide rate of ex-servicemen is 21 per cent higher than that of non-serving men, when adjusted for age, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Mr Harms hopes the Naval Association can support veterans to seek help.

“A lot are suffering with injuries and disabilities that came during their service, and they don’t know what to do about it,” he said. Those in need of NAA support can contact Mr Harms on 0467 278 493.

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