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Suicide among Scottish military veterans
  1. Michael Almond
  1. Forces in Mind Trust Research Centre, Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford CM1 1SQ, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Michael Almond, Forces in Mind Trust Research Centre, Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford CM1 1SQ, UK; michael.almond{at}aru.ac.uk

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In September 2021, the UK Government announced that for the first time the numbers of ex-service personnel who take their own lives will be officially recorded, alongside a 10-year look-back to examine veteran deaths through suicide.1 This followed an agreement between the Office for Veterans’ Affairs, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the Office for National Statistics. The paper in this Journal by Beverly Bergman and colleagues,2 Suicide Among Scottish Military Veterans, is therefore timely and significantly advances our knowledge of suicide among veterans. It builds on an earlier paper from the same group published in 2017 reporting their 30-year retrospective cohort study.3

The current study has three very important findings. First, that overall, veteran suicide is not frequent and no more so than the non-veteran community. Second, veteran suicide peaks in midlife. Third, that the incidence for veteran suicide is highest almost 20 years post-service.

In the UK, a veteran is defined as anyone who has served for at least 1 day in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces (Regular or Reserve) or Merchant Mariners who have seen duty on legally defined military operations; these account for approximately 2.4 million people residing in Great Britain.4

Suicide or ‘completed suicide’, is the act of intentionally killing oneself and is defined along with non-fatal suicide attempts and intentional self-harm in ICD-10.5

Popular opinion has it that mental health problems in the veteran population are common (or more so than the non-veteran community)6 with an increased risk of suicide exemplified by the oft quoted, but erroneous, “more Falkland veterans died by suicide after the Falkland’s war than those in service during it” which has been intensively investigated and refuted by the MOD.7

The MOD, unlike most employers, takes a great interest in preparing its employees for life beyond …

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Footnotes

  • Contributors The author is the sole contributor to the commentary.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests The author is employed as the Forces in Mind Trust Professor of Veterans and Families Studies at Anglia Ruskin University, the author was a Royal Air Force Reserve Medical Officer and the author has been affected by suicide in a first-degree relative.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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