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Injured SAS trooper bullied in hospital

AAP logoAAP 18/11/2016 Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer

An SAS trooper who attempted suicide was intimidated by colleagues in his hospital bed late at night as he was trying to recover, an inquiry has heard.

Andrew Scott Donaldson, who joined the Australian Defence Force in 1999, was admitted to a hospital in 2014 for psychological treatment after the death of his brother Jason.

His other brother, Trooper Evan Donaldson, told a Senate inquiry into military suicide rates on Friday Andrew was heavily medicated and not capable of reading or signing documents when a medical officer got him to sign papers which started his medical discharge process.

Andrew was discharged from hospital, but rather than reintegrate him into the SAS squadron, which his brother said would have been an "important part of the recovery process", he was posted to the regimental museum.

"He was isolated from his mates and treated as a leper," Evan said.

"A highly trained and experienced SAS officer who served multiple tours was now dusting ornaments."

Andrew was later moved to the dog squad where he raised and trained his own dog, but he wanted to return to full service.

He was told his dog squad position would be shut down and there was a delay to his appeal of his military separation.

"These tactics were designed to make him quit," his brother told the committee.

When 37-year-old Andrew attempted suicide a month ago the regimental health centre had no treatment plan in place for him.

Evan said SAS command took a dim view to anyone with a mental injury.

"If you are diagnosed with depression or anxiety you are immediately medically downgraded and stripped of your ability to carry or use your weapon or drive military vehicles," he said.

"This strips you of your role and identity as a soldier and only serves to deepen anxiety."

After he attempted to take his own life, Andrew was admitted to a Perth hospital but was not left in peace to recover.

"The SAS sent individual soldiers late at night, after hours, after our family had left, barging into the ICU, refusing to give their names or details to medical staff, intimidating nurses and doctors on sight, to eyeball Andrew and then leave," Evan said.

"This is disgusting. It horrified us, it intimidated us, it is absolutely unacceptable and SAS command did nothing about it."

He said the soldiers had gruffly told hospital staff: "Leave me alone, I'm with the Army."

SAS has also refused to release his medical documents to his family.

The intimidation has been referred to the health command head, who Evan said had launched a "fact finding mission".

Andrew's condition has also been raised with Defence Minister Marise Payne.

His brother said Andrew was recovering but his mood was "low" and he had brain damage.

Defence said in a statement obtained by AAP it had provided a submission to this Senate inquiry and "welcomes any opportunity to consider ways to further improve the health and wellbeing of current and ex-serving ADF members and their families".

"However, it would be inappropriate for Defence to comment on the submissions or testimony provided by individuals or organisations while they are under consideration by the Senate committee."

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or MensLine Australia on 1300 78 99 78.

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