A VICTORIAN coroner has called for urgent, greater information sharing to prevent suicides of Australian Defence Force personnel after the death of Ballarat's Nathan Shanahan.
The former soldier and firefighter took his own life in December 2016 after long-time struggles with post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression.
Mr Shanahan's ongoing legacy has been in the annual Walking Off the War event, first hosted by family and friends in Ballarat in the months after his death. The family-friendly event is now held in seven location across Australia to raise awareness and support for military and emergency services personnel and their families.
Coroner Caitlin English has recommended the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and Victorian Coroners' Court work closely together on data and findings to better identify prevention opportunities. Her findings come in the inquest report, released publicly this month, into Mr Shanahan's death.
Coroner English found in the time since starting an investigation into Mr Shanahan's death that support available to ADF veterans had improved and was in the process of improving. Part of this was in the ADF establishing a national suicide monitoring program with AIHW for serving, former and reserve personnel for improved understanding and design of early prevention programs.
Coroner English would not draw on what could have specifically been done better to support Mr Shanahan, whose initial mental health struggles stem back to his deployment to the Solomon Islands in 2006 where he witnesses violent incidents.
Mr Shanahan sought repeated professional medical help and Coroner English also noted the love and support from his family and friends.
Mr Shanahan made clear his "war within", walking 400 kilometres solo from his home in Mildura to Adelaide carrying a 25-kilogram pack in April 2015 to raise money and awareness for charity Soldier On, which provides support for physically and psychologically servicemen and women.
He was determined to spark discussion and break the stigma of mental illness along the journey.
Mr Shanahan's trek was the catalyst for Walking Off the War Within events, including the annual Ballarat walk based at St Patrick's College, with participants encouraged to walk as much or as little as they like. Those up for the ultimate challenge carry a pack, like Mr Shanahan, of 20kg.
READ MORE: NATHAN SHANAHAN FAREWELLED
Walking Off the War Within has drawn the support of the state's top emergency services leaders, including Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley who was in Ballarat for the inaugural event.
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