How the UK is blind to veterans taking their own lives after serving their country

Veterans who end up taking their own lives often go under the radar and are the forgotten victims of war.

Campaigners say it is imperative their battles do not go overlooked and want more studies to be carried out to get a better insight and understanding into the issue of veteran suicides.

Sue Freeth, chief executive of Combat Stress

Sue Freeth, chief executive of Combat Stress

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Dr Walter Busuttil, consultant psychiatrist and medical director for Combat Stress, the UK’s leading charity for veterans’ mental health, says: “For me, if there is even one suicide of a veteran in this country that we do not know about, that is a tragedy.

“There is a lot of international literature on suicides and these show very high rates of suicide in the military and among veterans.

“The rates are around double compared to civilians in America.

Veterans who take their own lives are the forgotten victims of war

Veterans who take their own lives are the forgotten victims of war

“The international literature shows that as far as PTSD, depression and alcohol are concerned, they all increase the risk of suicide of people in the military and veterans.

“But we have not done these studies in the UK. The only study into veteran suicides is by Prof Nav Kapur from the University of Manchester but it was quite a few years ago now and needs to be repeated.

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Persuading veterans to seek help

Dr Walter Busuttil

Dr Walter Busuttil

Sue Freeth, chief executive at Combat Stress says: “Every single life is precious and we want to do all we can to prevent veterans taking their own lives.

“We are working with many different agencies to make sure veterans get the help they need.

“Anyone who takes their own life, we should be trying to work out why that is happening.

“We have to persuade veterans who feel they want to take their own life that there is help and support available and we want them to come forward.

“There are lots of organisations working together to encourage veterans to seek help around mental health.

“However, when people feel suicide is their only route and cannot see any way out, they are already in that frame of mind where there cannot be rational thoughts and it is very difficult to prevent them.

“People at that stage have lost a lot of trust and confidence.

“There is treatment available to help people but it is getting to them before they reach that stage that is the issue.”

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