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 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.