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Roughly 1 in 25 people aged over 16 in the UK are veterans of the UK Armed Forces while almost 200,000 people are currently serving. Whilst serving in the Armed Forces doesn’t necessarily increase suicide risk, people within the Armed Forces community face unique challenges, many of which are poorly understood and go unaddressed by policymakers. It’s important to remember that the Armed Forces community is a diverse group of people who all have different experiences that may impact them in different ways.
People in the Armed Forces community may find it harder to access mental health support. Complications such as a lack of awareness of available support and a lack of awareness within civilian healthcare settings has resulted in many people not accessing the support which they are entitled to.
People leaving the Armed Forces are at their highest risk of suicide within the first two years of leaving the Forces. Research has shown that the stress of transitioning into civilian life can increase risk. However, suicide is complex and this is just one of many factors which may contribute.
- Samaritans works with the Ministry of Defence, the Office for Veterans’ Affairs, other charities and researchers to support serving personnel in the Armed Forces, veterans, and their families. More information about the services which we provide to the Armed Forces community can be found here.
What we are calling for
The UK Government has not historically collected full information on veteran suicide, which is really important to understand the issues and address them. We need commitments to publish data on veteran suicide to be put into practice.
Data sharing between military and civilian healthcare providers also needs to improve to better support people transitioning from the armed forces to civilian life.
Relevant public services should proactively reach out to people in the Armed Forces community who may be at higher risk, including those aged under 25 and those who have left service in the last two years.. There must not be an onus on the individual to reach out for support.
Governments should better promote the specialist mental health support already available for veterans across the UK, especially for those who are about to transition into civilian life.