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Government urged to do more to help veterans amid suicide fears

Veterans are urged to seek help with their mental health issues.
Veterans are urged to seek help with their mental health issues.

The Government is today urged to do more to support former forces personnel amid fears the true figure for veteran suicides remains hidden.

An investigation on behalf of Johnston Press, the Gazette’s parent company, has found no comprehensive official records are kept for the number of ex-servicemen and women ending their lives.

Coroners, for instance, are not obliged to flag up a person’s military past if they kill themselves.

This is in stark contrast to America and Australia where official figures do exist.

In the United States, veteran suicide rates have increased by nearly 20% since the onset of lengthy military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Our research suggests that in this country coroners are investigating an average of one suspected veteran suicide every 11 days in 2018.

This compares to an average of one personnel death every 14 days due to enemy action in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2001-14.

Also read: South Tyneside veterans urged to swallow pride and seek help

While the Ministry of Defence (MoD) insists Armed Forces suicides here are “significantly lower” than the 8% nationwide average, a leading clinician at veterans’ charity Combat Stress insists the Government is relying on data nearly a decade old and needs to do more to analyse the problem.

Dr Dominic Murphy, from the charity, which estimates that just under one in five of the 3,000-plus veterans it is treating has had moderate to severe suicidal thoughts, said: “From the mid-noughties onwards there has been a higher rate of suicide among American, Canadian and Australian veterans and some of our European allies and we just don’t know the situation in the UK because the last study was in 2009.”

A MoD spokesperson said: “While rates of suicide are significantly lower in the Armed Forces than the general population, any suicide is a tragedy for the individual, their family, friends and colleagues and we take each case extremely seriously.

“The reasons people take their lives can vary and are not necessarily linked to their service. Help is available for serving personnel, their families and veterans, including through the two 24-hour mental health helplines provided by Combat Stress.”

Also read: How South Tyneside veterans can get the help they deserve