We Salute VUAS
We don’t do politics in The Mountain Way so, suffice to say, there are no official
figures for the suicide rate in the UK military community. However, there is one man who has been working tirelessly to keep this tragic score and to try to force the government to do something about it, since leaving the Royal Marines after 22 years of distinguished service in 1995. His name is Warrant Officer 2nd Class Jeff Williams Royal Marines (retired), and he heads up a small team of dedicated volunteers called Veterans United Against Suicide, or VUAS for short, and you can find him on:
Jeff has 4,330 facebook friends, so his footprint is quite influential. VUAS does their utmost to verify facts, but openly acknowledge that even they cannot be certain that their figures are accurate. The suicide rate in the serving and veteran communities in Britain may be higher.
Here are their collated and verified numbers for 2020:
Serving military: 17
This equals one suicide every 4 days.
What does this mean?
As of the 1st of April 2020 there were just under 155,000 (Wikipedia) personnel in the UK’s Armed Forces. This figure includes those under training. You might argue that 17 suicides amongst 155,000 people is not a significant factor. In 2018 the Office of National Statistics recorded a suicide rate in the UK of 11.2 people per 100,000. This factor argues that the suicide rate in the Armed Forces is marginally lower than in the civilian world.
Suicide is an emotive subject and applying statistics to it proves nothing really. But, it is indisputable that all of those 69 veterans took their own life because they were lonely, depressed, suffering from all sorts of related problems including alcoholism, drug addiction, anxiety, rejection, homelessness, prison and PTSD, to name the main causes.
We, as caring retired service personnel, have a duty to look after our less fortunate comrades, mainly because that was the ethos we were inducted into when we joined up. Team effort, loyalty, move at the speed of the slowest man, which implies leave no one behind, integrity, courage, honesty, and simple good citizenship. These are factors that drive those of us who are determined to do what we can, to prevent suicide amongst the veteran community.
We thank Jeff Williams and his team for their continued work in this most thankless field of support.
They, like us, can be proud of saving lives. BZ Royal.