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Investigation reveals lack of data on suicides of veterans

Investigation reveals lack of data on suicides of veterans

An investigation by the i newspaper and Johnston Press media has found that no official records are being kept of the number of former servicemen and women taking their own lives.

Countries including the United States and Canada monitor veterans for life but the UK has no system in place to track what happens to this nation’s veterans, despite increasing numbers being diagnosed with mental health problems.

Chief Executive Sue Freeth said: “One death is too many and our condolences go to all families affected by this issue.

“We welcome the investigation by Johnston Press and hope it will lead to a change in the way coroners record suicides.

“Currently there is no system in place to record the deaths of veterans by suicide, so we have no way of knowing whether they are more or less likely than their civilian counterparts to take their own lives.

“As a charity working with veterans with complicated mental health issues, we believe it’s important to know how many veterans take their own lives so we can assess if the issue is getting bigger. We have got a lot of data about veterans but data about suicides is the missing piece of the jigsaw.

“Combat Stress is working with organisations including Heads Together, Contact and Veterans’ Gateway to help encourage veterans to speak out and seek help.”

Dr Walter Busuttil, Medical Director at Combat Stress, said: “We know from our recently published study on suicidal thoughts that younger veterans who’ve served for less than four years in the military are most at risk. This reflects the findings in a 2009 University of Manchester study conducted on veteran suicides. It found that early service leavers below the age of 24 were three times more likely to take their own lives than their civilian counterparts.

“It’s unclear whether military service increases the risk of suicide or whether these veterans entered the military with underlying issues and difficulties. What is clear, is that help needs to be available to all, especially the most vulnerable group.”

The Combat Stress mental health helpline is available 24 hours a day. Veterans and their families can call 0800 138 1619. Serving personnel and their families can call 0800 323 4444.