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May 9, 2021

Navy kept fatal secrets from families

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Crystal methamphetamine, also known as Ice. Image by Psychonaught.
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The families of five young Australian Navy sailors who killed themselves weren’t aware of their loved ones’ drug habits and previous attempts on their own lives because of the Navy’s privacy policy.

‘What happens in the Navy stays in the Navy,’ Mark Addison, whose son Stuart hanged himself while on shore leave in 2011, told the ABC’s 7.30 program.

After his death, his family found out he had tried to kill himself twice before and been prescribed psychiatric medication.

‘They knew. And we weren’t told about it. We were kept in the dark,’ Stuart’s sister Jessica Ames said.

Stuart’s friend and former sailor Matt Henry, who also attempted suicide, told the ABC about the drinking and drug-taking habits of sailors from the HMAS Sterling base in WA.

‘Our group would drink all night. It was a tradition,’ he said.

The sailors also took ice.

‘It was the drug of choice over in Western Australia,’ Mr Henry said.

The drug was usually supplied by other sailors.

Mr Henry said he believed his friends’ use of the drug ruined their lives.

Another sailor, who doctors said shouldn’t have been sent to sea due to chemical burns on his hands, was bullied by Navy personnel when he was ordered to go to sea.

In late 2011, Brett Dwyer was discharged after saying he had used drugs, including ice.

In May the next year, he killed himself.

‘We woke up in the morning and he was hanging on our balustrade which is in the middle of the house,’ his father Mark Dwyer said.

‘His mother and I had to cut him down.’

The Dwyer family only learnt of Brett’s problems after his death.

Three other men committed suicide in similar circumstances.

Their mental health issues and suicide attempts were kept inside the Navy and their families only became aware after their funerals.

‘They’re trying to sweep this issue under the carpet,’ said Kenna Crichton, whose brother Ewan McDonald killed himself after three suicide attempts.

The Navy has reviewed its privacy policy about suicide attempts and won’t be making changes, 7.30 reported.

* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

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