Armed forces’ suicides surpass combat deaths


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

6 April 2007 23:11

Armed forces' suicides surpass combat deaths
By Sophie Goodchild and Jonathan Owen
Published: 01 April 2007

More servicemen and women have committed suicide over the past two decades than 
have died in military action, according to

new figures.

The latest death toll for those in the armed forces who have taken their own 
lives has risen to 687 compared with 438 killed

during active service in major conflicts such as the Gulf, Afghanistan and 
Northern Ireland.

Ministry of Defence (MoD) figures released this weekend also reveal that the 
number of suicides among servicemen and

women has risen by at least 49 in a year. This is more than three times the 
number of soldiers killed since the start of war in

Afghanistan in 2001 and has raised fresh concerns about the mental welfare of 
troops. Those most at risk of taking their own

lives are soldiers in their early 20s and teenage army recruits.

The suicide figures are based on research by the Government's Defence Analytical
Services Agency (Dasa). Its latest report

reveals that between 1984 and 2006, 687 armed-forces personnel killed 
themselves, a figure that includes 672 men and 15

women. This compares with 638 deaths between 1984 and 2005, and 624 up to 2004.

Dasa says male suicide rates in the forces are lower than in the general 
population, with the exception of army males under the

age of 20. The Army has a higher rate of suicides than the Navy or RAF, 
particularly for those aged 25 and under. Male

soldiers aged 20 to 24 and those aged under 20 have the highest rates of 
suicide, with 18 deaths and 16 respectively per

100,000 troops. This comes just weeks after opposition MPs demanded action 
following the disclosure that at least 17

personnel had taken their own lives after seeing action in the Gulf.

Last month, this newspaper highlighted the plight of traumatised troops 
returning from combat who feel abandoned by the state.

Numerous public figures have signed up to The Independent on Sunday's campaign 
to achieve justice for the victims of post-

traumatic stress.

Charities, including Combat Stress and the Royal British Legion, warn that 
figures of mental illness could rise and that doctors

are poor at recognising conditions such as combat stress.

Clive Fairweather, a former SAS colonel, said there is "no doubt the modern Army
is exposed to a lot more pressure because

there are fewer soldiers".
© 2007 Independent News and Media Limited

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