Americans eye-up Southsea soldiers's idea to support suicidal veterans to tackle US crisis

TECHNOLOGY built by a pair of soldiers to help search groups find suicidal veterans who have disappeared could be trialled in the USA.

Monday, 8th July 2019, 8:21 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th July 2019, 12:54 am
Daniel Arnold and Stephen James, founders of armed forces support network All Call Signs. Photo: Ian Hargreaves

Southsea-based armed forces charity All Call Signs has been contacted by military organisations in America who are eager to find out about their Beacon and peer-support service.

The technology uses artificial intelligence to alert specific communities and volunteer teams when suicidal veterans go missing, helping organisers to co-ordinate search efforts.

Since launching almost a year ago, the system has been used on dozens of searches, with All Call Signs volunteers helping to rescue several at-risk veterans.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Now, charity founders Daniel Arnold and Stephen James have approached the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to offer a helping hand as the States faces its own veteran suicide crisis.

Mr James said: ‘We have proven that it works here. If our allies are in the same situation with veteran suicides then we would love to help.’

He added he was shocked to receive the appeals from help from across the pond.

‘It’s scary and shows how big this problem is not just in the UK but in allied nations too,’ he said.

The news comes following reports of a surge in suicide rates among young US military veterans.

Data from the VA has shown ex-service personnel aged 18 to 34 have a higher rate of suicide than any other group.

In its National Suicide Data Report, the VA said the rate for those young veterans increased to 45 suicide deaths per 100,000 population in 2016, up from 40.4 the year before.

While more than 6,000 veterans have killed themselves each year since 2008, recent VA data claimed – with many of them Afghanistan and Iraq veterans.

‘These are the guys we are really looking to help – the young guys whose problems may only just beginning to surface,’ said Mr James.

Britain currently has no way to monitor veteran suicides – although defence secretary Penny Mordaunt has announced plans to change this, after a year-long campaign by The News, All Call Signs and Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP .

The News approached the VA for comment about All Call Signs.