MoD confirms more British soldiers commit suicide than are killed in battle

Panorama discover that at least 50 serving and veteran soldiers took their own lives in 2012.

More British soldiers and veterans took their own lives last year than were killed in battle, it has emerged.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed that in 2012 seven serving soldiers were confirmed to have killed themselves, while a further 14 died in suspected suicides but inquests had yet to be held.

Although the Government does not record suicides among former soldiers, an investigation by the BBC's Panorama revealed that 21 serving soldiers and 29 veterans committed suicide in 2012.

The 50 suicides exceeds the 40 soldiers who died fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan during the same period.

Panorama obtained the total number of suicides by serving soldiers from a Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Defence. They also contacted every coroner in the country to ask for the names of soldiers and veterans who killed themselves in 2012 and analysed newspaper reports of coroners' inquests.

Lance Sergeant Dan Collins who survived a bomb blast while serving in Helmand Province in Afghanistan in 2009, killed himself on New Year's Eve in 2011 after suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the BBC reported.

His mother Deana told Panorama her son was a “victim of war” and his name should be added to the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire which honours the military casualties of every conflict since WWII.

“Soldiers with PTSD are exactly the same. They're victims of war and they should be treated exactly the same,” she said.

A spokesman for the MoD said suicide among members of the Armed Forces remains “extremely rare” and is lower than comparative rates in the civilian population.

An MoD spokesman said: “Every suicide is a tragedy and our thoughts remain with the families of all those who have sadly taken their own lives.

“Mental health of our personnel and veterans is a top priority for the Government. That is why we have committed £7.4 million to ensure there is extensive mental health support in place for everyone who needs it.

“Medical experts and clinicians working in our Armed Forces and across the NHS are committed to providing the best possible care to all those that have bravely served their country and to ensuring a smooth transition from the Armed Forces into the NHS.”

Commodore Andrew Cameron, chief executive of Combat Stress, said: “Every suicide by a soldier or veteran is one too many but 50 in one year is desperately sad. Our thoughts go out to the families and friends affected. If confirmed, these figures remind us that serving in the armed forces can be very traumatic and can result in psychological as well as physical wounds.

”The priority now needs to be to ensure that the NHS must have a greater understanding of how to support soldiers and veterans suffering from Service-related mental ill-health.

“The NHS and emergency services are generally the first organisations to have contact with a veteran in emotional turmoil. We are working with the NHS to increase awareness and improve responsiveness to veterans who need help and treatment when they are in crisis.

“Moreover, priority needs to be maintained on ensuring that serving personnel and veterans are educated about the signs of mental trauma and where to seek help. Identifying those in need and preventing suicides can be incredibly difficult. A greater focus should be placed on identifying soldiers and veterans suffering in silence with mental wounds so they can get the help and support required before it is too late.

The Panorama special, Broken By Battle, will be broadcast on BBC One tomorrow at 9pm.

Additional reporting by PA