Veteran suicides: Work starts in Hampshire to try to find true extent of problem 

JUST one veteran who died by suicide was identified in audits of people who took their own life carried out across Hampshire.  

The tragic death was found within the audits carried out by authorities in Portsmouth (in 2016), Southampton (2016) and the Isle of Wight’s (2017) most recent suicide audits.
But now work is being undertaken in a bid to improve the recording of such data in a bid to reveal the true figures and better target prevention services.
Campaigners, relatives of those who have died, clinicians and a former head of the Royal Navy have expressed surprise that figures on veteran deaths by suicide are not recorded by government.
But Portsmouth City Council public health director Dr Jason Horsley and Caroline Hopper, Armed Forces Covenant programme manager for Portsmouth, Southampton, Gosport and the Isle of Wight, have both said recording the data is not straightforward.
Ms Hopper said: ‘We have actions within our local suicide prevention plans to explore with the coroner’s office how veteran status can be better identified and recorded, to enable better targeting of prevention activities in the future.’
She added: ‘Within the Solent region we have adopted a partnership approach to supporting the Armed Forces community. 
‘There is no evidence to suggest that a career in the military in itself is substantially worse for mental health than other occupations.
‘However, a small but significant number of service personnel will experience mental health issues within or after their service. Data received from Hampshire IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Treatment) show that in 2016/17, 2.6 per cent of referrals received into this service from across the region were identified as having a military connection. Within the Solent area we work closely with a range of providers who offer veteran specific support to those experiencing mental health issues. 
‘This has included supporting the development of new veteran drop-in's and projects that promote veteran wellbeing and employability, alongside raising awareness of routes into clinical treatment if this is required. 
‘A total of one veteran suicide has been identified within Portsmouth (2016), Southampton (2016) and the Isle of Wight's (2017) most recent suicide audits.
‘However, the way that someone is classified as a veteran may not capture all those who have been involved in the armed forces at some stage in their lives.’
Dr Horsley also pointed to difficulties in identifying veterans’ deaths.
He said: ‘Knowing the occupation of those who committed suicide could reveal trends and identify where better support might be needed to ensure that people leaving these professions don't get to the point of attempting suicide. However, recording occupation isn't without its challenges. 
‘For example, if someone left the Armed Forces at 35 and then spent 10 years as an electrician before taking their life, do they get recorded as a veteran or electrician?
‘We're supportive of the better collection of data but even if this was done you need to be mindful of the interpretation of what's recorded and the bias that might be applied to it, particularly on suicide which continues to have a long standing stigma attached to it.’

HELPLINE NUMBERS

Veterans Outreach Support in Portsmouth: (023) 9273 1767

Care after Combat in Whiteley: 0300 343 0258

Samaritans: 116 123

Combat Stress: 0800 138 1619

Support for adult family members of veterans, The Ripple Pond: 01252 913021

Alcoholics Anonymous: 0800 9177 650

Shore Leave Haslar in Gosport: shoreleavehaslar.org/contactus