Evidence on veterans’ suicides is ‘not complete’.
That is the view of Portsmouth City Council’s joint director of public health, Dr Jason Horsley, who said a 2009 study found some people leaving the forces were at an increased risk.
He said: ‘This is still an area where the evidence is not complete. It is true that long term studies have not shown an increased risk for veterans compared to the baseline population.
‘However, findings from a 2009 study looking at suicide rates in veterans leaving the Armed Forces between 1996 and 2005 suggested that young men leaving the forces may be at an increased risk of suicide, particularly shortly after leaving.
‘The study was not able to prove the reason for this increased risk, but the authors suggested three main possibilities: the stress of transitioning to civilian life, exposure to adverse experiences while in the military, or a vulnerability to suicide before entering the military.
‘This last point could be due to the Forces recruiting personnel from areas of higher deprivation, which evidence shows carries an increased risk of suicide.
‘Equally, we also know that people with a diagnosed mental health condition are shown to be at a higher risk of attempting and completing suicide, and that mental illness is associated with deprivation.
‘Another risk factor in suicide is having access to a highly effective means (for example a firearm), which those in the military are more likely to have.
‘The suicide audit found a number of key risk factors such as debt, relationship breakdown, unemployment and substance misuse, which, regardless of their veteran status, might also be a factor in why someone leaving the Armed Forces takes their life. These findings are similar to audits in other authorities.’