A free legal service will visit the Pilbara next week with hopes of speaking to members of the defence and veterans communities about their experiences with mental health challenges. Visiting various Pilbara towns between February 12 and 16, the Defence and Veterans Legal Service wants to hear from people about the mental distress and challenges experienced by those who have served their country. The latest update on suicide among ADF members by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare revealed that while suicide rates remained similar to previous years, ex-ADF members still had a higher rate compared to the Australian population. The suicide rate between 1997 and 2020 among ex-serving men was 27 per cent higher than the general population, after adjusting for age, while ex-serving women had a rate 107 per cent above. Veterans’ Affairs Minister Matt Keogh said the government would respond to each of the recommendations quickly. “The research in this report, coupled with the work of the royal commission, is critical to deepening our understanding of the sad reality of suicidal ideation in our veteran community, enabling us to undertake the necessary reform to save lives.” Royal commission chair Nick Kaldas said the figures outlined in the report were concerning. “These aren’t just numbers, but people who tragically felt they could not go on,” he said. “Behind every death by suicide are family members, friends and colleagues whose lives are forever changed.” The report follows the release of the interim report of the royal commission into veteran suicide. The commission made 13 recommendations, which included measures to reduce the medical claims backlog for veterans. DVLS WA Lawyer Mitch Caubo said it was important regional veterans — including those in the Pilbara — share their experience with the Royal Commission. “Pilbara voices must be heard by this Royal Commission,” he said. “We provide free, confidential and independent legal support to empower people to tell their stories to this inquiry in a safe and informed way. “Those personal stories will underpin the Royal Commission’s findings and create positive change that helps to right wrongs.” Pilbara community members are invited to speak with DVLS at the Karratha Aboriginal Justice Open Day on Monday, February 13 between 11am and 3pm at the Karratha Leisureplex Clubroom. DVLS lawyers will then continue on to the Roebourne Aboriginal Justice Open Day at Roebourne PCYC from 9am to 4pm o Tuesday, February 14 and Wednesday, February 15.