Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Operations

Ministry of Defence written question – answered on 23rd November 2018.

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Photo of Adam Holloway Adam Holloway Conservative, Gravesham

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, how many veterans of Operation Herrick have died by suicide (a) whilst serving and (b) after leaving the Army.

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

The Government takes the welfare of Service personnel and veterans very seriously. As in society as a whole, the Armed Forces will never be able to eradicate the incidence of suicide, however we are not complacent; any suicide is one too many and a tragedy for the individual.

As at 1 February 2018, there have been 29 coroner-confirmed suicide and open verdict deaths to UK Army Service personnel, whilst serving, who had previously deployed to Operation HERRICK (Afghanistan). In addition, there were three coroner-confirmed suicide and open verdict deaths to UK Army Service personnel whilst deployed on Operation HERRICK.

Suicide data for veterans of the UK Armed Forces is not currently captured by the Ministry of Defence (MOD). However, the MOD has commissioned a new study to investigate causes of death, including suicide, amongst all those who served in the UK Armed Forces between 2001 and 2014, covering combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. This will include Army personnel who are still in service, and Army personnel who have now transitioned into civilian life.

Every study conducted by the MOD has found that the risk of suicide amongst the Armed Forces community is lower than amongst the general population. The UK Regular Armed Forces male rate of suicide for 2017 was 8 per 100,000. In contrast, the UK general population male rate in 2016 was 19 per 100,000. The UK Regular Armed Forces have seen a declining trend in male suicide rates since the 1990s. Suicide remains a rare event, evidenced by the small number of deaths in each year.

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