Mil­i­tary vet­er­ans ‘be­trayed’ by fail­ure to list sui­cides

Min­is­ter is urged to make coro­ners regis­ter whether vic­tims were ever in forces to pre­vent fu­ture deaths

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Steve Bird

THE new sui­cide pre­ven­tion min­is­ter must end the “be­trayal” of mil­i­tary vet­er­ans over the Govern­ment’s fail­ure to record the num­ber of for­mer ser­vice­men who take their own lives, cam- paign­ers have said. Armed Forces groups, rel­a­tives of sol­diers who have killed them­selves and a serv­ing coro­ner are back­ing calls for a com­pre­hen­sive record to be kept to es­tab­lish the ex­tent of men­tal health prob­lems fol­low­ing mil­i­tary ac­tion.

Jackie Doyle-Price, who was last week ap­pointed the world’s first min­is­ter for sui­cide pre­ven­tion, is be­ing urged to bring the UK into line with al­lies that mon­i­tor ex-mil­i­tary per­son­nel for life.

While the US and Canada hold statis- tics on for­mer ser­vice­men who kill them­selves and have found the rates higher com­pared with civil­ians, no such data­base ex­ists in the UK.

All Call Signs, a group help­ing vet­er­ans strug­gling with men­tal health is­sues, claim that this year alone 47 for­mer or serv­ing ser­vice­men and women have taken their lives.

It wants the new min­is­ter to drive through re­forms to make coro­ners regis­ter whether any­one who com­mit­ted sui­cide was ever in the armed ser­vices.

Daniel Arnold, of All Call Signs, said: “The cur­rent sys­tem for sui­cide pre­ven­tion and men­tal health­care in the mil­i­tary com­mu­nity falls short of the mark be­cause it is built on the back of in­com­plete data.

“It’s a be­trayal to for­mer and serv­ing armed forces per­son­nel to not ad­e­quately record those who have lost or are los­ing the fight to the hid­den wounds of war.”

Viv John­ston, whose son Dan served in the Spe­cial Forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and Bos­nia but killed him­self this sum­mer, believes an of­fi­cial regis­ter is long over­due. “It is ter­ri­ble that they do not of­fi­cially record how many later take their own lives. It means they are bliss­fully un­aware the ef­fects com­bat can have.”

Anne Pem­ber, the Northamp­ton­shire coro­ner, took the un­usual step of back­ing calls for coro­ners to help es­tab­lish a clearer pic­ture. “If it would in any way pre­vent a fu­ture death then it’s clearly worth­while,” she said.

The Min­istry of De­fence has car­ried out re­search on the num­ber of sui­cides among vet­er­ans who served in both the Falk­lands and Gulf wars and found that the rates were lower than those of the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion.

The call for an of­fi­cial regis­ter has been backed by Com­bat Stress, Help for He­roes, Vet­er­ans United Against Sui­cide and For­got­ten Vet­er­ans UK.

Ms Doyle-Price, said she un­der­stands “how tragic, dev­as­tat­ing and long-last­ing the ef­fect of sui­cide can be on fam­i­lies,” adding that she looks for­ward to work­ing with those be­reaved as well as ex­perts to try to pre­vent peo­ple tak­ing their own lives.

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