Comment: Panorama programme 'Broken by Battle'
If we know anything about suicide amongst people who have served in the armed forces, it is that we do not understand the issues well enough, and within existing research there are conflicting findings about how ‘at risk’ this group are.
The issues are of course different for those currently serving, and those who have left the military and may be struggling to reintegrate into society. It could also be argued that the nature of armed conflict has changed over the last 50 years and it would be logical if this resulted in different effects on veterans.
Research shows that men, especially those from poorer backgrounds in their 30s, 40s and 50s, are at a higher risk of suicide. We also know that many more of our young men and women are being exposed to the trauma of combat and are returning home to face the continuing challenge of taking a meaningful role in society.
Suicide is a very visible sign of distress but we must also pay attention to substance misuse, relationship problems, crime, violence and joblessness amongst our veterans.
It sometimes feels like a cliché to say that “we need more research”, but this simply is true when looking at how we can best understand and support our veterans.
There needs to be more investment in understanding the factors which predict people's successful reintegration into society, the risk factors which people "bring with them" into the armed forces and those which are a result of serving, and most important of all, what can we do to provide better outcomes for our veterans.
Joe Ferns, Executive Director of Policy, Research & Development
Our 'We're in your Corner' research, part of Samaritans' latest campaign to support middle-aged men most at risk of suicide.
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