Some veterans ‘living in a nightmare from the past'

There have been 384 suicides and open verdicts recorded among people serving in the UK armed forces between 1995 and 2014, figures released by the Ministry of Defence today show.

The majority of people who took their own lives were men, with 366 dying by suicide or having open verdicts recorded on their deaths compared with 18 women.

The figures released today show that the male suicide rate for those serving in the forces is significantly lower than the general population. However, we know that leaving the forces can be a particularly difficult time that we should not ignore.

Joe Ferns, Samaritans Executive Director of Policy and Research said: “Whilst suicide rates amongst serving personnel are comparatively low, we must remember that every suicide is one too many. There is also a real concern about people making the change from military life, often post-conflict, to civilian life because we know these people are  two or three times more likely to die by suicide than the general population.

“Many of those who have problems adapting to life outside the services are middle-aged men from lower socio-economic backgrounds, who are traditionally at the highest risk of suicide. There is also a younger group of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan coming forward who are in urgent need of support.

“We welcome people being proactively offered support as part of the process of leaving the services. Samaritans works in partnership with forces’ charities Combat Stress and Veterans UK, to provide out of hours support for services personnel through outreach work.”

Samaritans branches in areas where there is a greater concentration of forces personnel confirm they are regularly contacted by people serving or those who have served in the Army, Navy and the RAF.

Mary Noble, director of Portsmouth branch, said: “The ex-services personnel who are in contact with us tend to be very affected by what they have experienced; some of them are living in a nightmare from the past.”

Samaritans branches receive calls from veterans who have served in a number of conflicts and are still suffering from the after effects, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

A serving army officer who has volunteered for  Samaritans for six years, said: “I started volunteering because I have been through tough times myself and wanted to give something back. I think what we do is really powerful,  Samaritans gives people the time and space to be themselves without judgement and that is really important.”

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For more information about the work of Samaritans or to speak to a spokesperson, please contact the Samaritans’ Press Office on 020 8394 8300

Notes to editors:

  • Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year. We provide a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them. Please call 116 123, email, or visit to find details of the nearest branch.