Veterans crisis: How our investigation revealed how Britain was turning a ‘blind eye’ to suicide rate in ex-troops

AN ABSENCE of official records of suicides among Britain's 2.6m military veterans led to the government being accused of turning ‘a blind eye’ to concerns last year.

Thursday, 21st February 2019, 3:49 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st February 2019, 4:49 pm
Defence minister Tobias Ellwood, previously said said Whitehall could not afford to be complacent over mental health and the study would further understanding of veteran wellbeing. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

After months of investigation by JPIMedia, families devastated by the suicides of ex-service personnel joined veterans who had battled crippling mental health problems in uniting behind a call for change.

The investigation, which made headlines nationwide in July, uncovered concerns suicide rates were spiralling among those who had left the forces.

Allied nations like the US, Australia and Canada all record the number of veteran suicides and charity leaders say official figures would be vital in working out how best to help traumatised war heroes.

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Defence minister Tobias Ellwood, previously said said Whitehall could not afford to be complacent over mental health and the study would further understanding of veteran wellbeing. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

The lack of recording led ex-Royal Marine Simon Maryan, of support group Veterans Against Suicide, to say: ‘Not recording these figures makes it very easy for the MoD to turn a blind eye.

‘How can they tackle a problem if they don't know its scale and nature?’

Several coroners backed calls for a such information to be held in a readily accessible format.

In a major victory for our campaign, the government said in October it would begin a new study into suicide rates among those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2001 and 2014.

Defence minister Tobias Ellwood said Whitehall could not afford to be complacent over mental health and the study would further understanding of veteran wellbeing.

NHS trusts in England provided some indication of the scale of the mental health issues, like post-traumatic stress disorder, facing those who leave active duty.

Some 21,190 veterans were referred for psychological therapies in 2017/18, up 2,000 in 12 months.