Is there a cure……?
Suicide is not a new thing, it is far too common in society. While serving in the British Army I looked upon people who committed suicide as people who wasted their lives. I thought that they were weak and inconsiderate. I mean after all the effect that their ‘selfish’ act had on friends family and so on.
I was highly trained, first and foremost I was a soldier, second to this I was a Combat Medical Technician. My job was to save lives so I was always aghast when people took their own life!
“Oh how life changes”
These thoughts were quickly reconsidered when a friend took his life; while out on a live fire training he joked about keeping one round (bullet) for himself! Not one eyelid was batted after all, at the close of each range exercise you declare you have not retained any munitions. The following day while out training on a weighted march with kit and weapons, the group stopped for a water break. This was his last, he loaded his rifle, turned it on himself and took his life.
The key to the above was that he took his life. He did not commit suicide, killing yourself has not been illegal since 1961. Therefore you can not ‘commit’ suicide. This marked a change in my opinion, why, because before this I was wrong.
“There is nothing wrong with admitting you are wrong as long as you recognise and change.”
Changing the world never happens, changing yourself does so this is where you need to start. Over several years there has been focus on mental health in both military and civilian life. Recently it has been identified that there are no specific records kept by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) relating to Veterans suicide. The stock response is that the coroner holds these records. Well… that would be the case if they identified the person who has taken their life as a veteran, so in short there are not suitable records to draw from.
If we are frank, the United Kingdom has a part to play in supporting the Armed Forces, every year on the 11th November we remember Armistice Day. Everyone (almost) comes together, buys a poppy and shows their support for our Armed Forces. What happens next, well the funds raised are gratefully received and benefit those who are in need.
America is by no way perfect, they do however actively recognise their veterans, this includes simple gratitude like free entry to theme parks and respecting them for what they have done. This point seems laboured however its the little things that matter.
In the UK there are a large number of charities set up to help serving and ex-service personnel, these charities support issues including;
Recovery and providing lifelines.
It’s obvious the support is out there in the United Kingdom although a lot needs to be done. The public gives millions each year to support ‘our troops’. There are lots of amazing people doing crazy things to raise money. There is also a lot of corporate input including the offer of employment programs to help service leavers and financial donations.
This should surely be enough but to date 43 veterans have taken their lives this year, with a majority of these having struggled with the mental health condition Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is not the only mental health condition that has causative effect.
A number of people doing amazing things and inspiring people, some of these include;
Brian Wood MC https://www.brianwoodmc.co.uk/
Karla Stevenson of https://www.civvyfutures.org/
Tony Hodson of http://www.hodson-associates.co.uk/
Iain Henderson trustee https://www.veteranscharity.org.uk/
Michael Coates of https://declassifiedpodcast.com/
One of the key messages is that “its okay not to be okay”, this message isn’t just about smashing the stigma of mental health, it’s about self identifying that things are getting tough. This doesn’t mean going online and self diagnosing yourself as having a mental health condition.
Your first port of call is speaking out to friends, family or health professionals. One thing you need to know is “this is a road to recovery” it’s not a quick fix. If you talk about it then you start the road to recovery.
With the modern roads in the UK you will find lots of ruts and rubbish, you will sometimes hit a roundabout where you won’t know which way to turn; there are signposts out there. Sometimes you will turn down an unmade road, unmade doesn’t mean the path hasn’t been trodden it just means that it can be a bit dustier. No matter which way you turn, what road you take or even if it’s the wrong one it’s important that you stop and ask for directions.
The above may be a daft analogy but it’s as clear and simple as it needs to be. Veterans and service personnel are taking their lives and its frightening. I would say more so because every one of those who pledge allegiance to the Sovereign are in essence willing to die for their country.
None of them want to and taking their own life is not doing this, it is dying because the country failed them. Its time to change this. I decided to write this and not go into the facts and figures. It is clear that the world, the government need to be doing something. The issue is they are not doing as much as they could. Facts and figures will not redress the balance. It is too late for so many but its down to us, we can change the future.
Lots of people are putting the government to task if you look there are many petitions, sign these but please don’t think that is it I’ve done my bit, I’ve ticked the box. There are 2.5 million veterans in the UK as of 2016, this was down 60,000 from 2015. The most recent statistics will be published in 2019!
Ultimately there is no cure, for years people have taken their own lives so the responsibility lies on us to give them the support, the signposts, the sense of purpose.
I write this in the knowledge that I have hit rock bottom and considered suicide, but I came through. Why? Because I looked up from the rocks and realised there was always a hand to help me up, find yours talk.
I urge you to look at the links above and if you need help or support please use the helplines provided by Combat Stress.
The helpline is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Veterans and their families can call 0800 138 1619.
Serving personnel and their families can call 0800 323 4444.