Veterans: Suicide

Ministry of Defence written question – answered on 21st May 2020.

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Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Shadow Minister (Defence)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what information his Department holds on the number of veterans who have died from suicide in the (a) most recent year for which information is available and (b) last five years.

Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Shadow Minister (Defence)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, when his Department plans to publish the preliminary findings of the study into causes of death of military personnel who were deployed to conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2001 and 2014.

Photo of Johnny Mercer Johnny Mercer Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)

The Government takes the welfare of Service personnel and veterans very seriously. Whilst we recognise that suicide affects wider society, not just the Armed Forces, any such death is one too many and a tragedy for all concerned.

Suicide data for veterans of the UK Armed Forces is not currently captured by the Government. However, the Ministry of Defence (MOD), alongside the Office for Veterans Affairs within the Cabinet Office, are working to improve data collection of the veteran community, as envisioned by the ‘Strategy for our Veterans’.

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, encompassing veterans and those still serving:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-study-into-iraq-and-afghanistan-veterans-launched. MOD officials are continuing to work with colleagues in NHS Digital, the Health Research Authority and National Records Scotland to overcome challenges and are hopeful that the initial report will be published later this year.

The MOD also publishes studies on the causes of death, including suicide, of veterans from the 1982 Falklands war: (https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/causes-of-deaths-among-the-uk-armed-forces-veterans-of-the-1982-falklands-campaign) and from the 1990/91 Gulf war: (https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/causes-of-deaths-that-occurred-among-the-uk-veterans-of-the-199091-gulf-conflict). Both studies show that the suicide rates amongst veterans were lower than comparative rates in the civilian population.

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