In 2010 Defence Statistics (previously known as Defence Analytical Services and Advice (DASA)) was asked to undertake a study to determine the number of suicides among the cohort of service personnel who deployed to the Falkland Islands during the 1982 campaign. The intention of the study was to examine claims by some ex-service organisations that there have been more lives lost to suicide among this cohort than the 2371 service personnel lost during the 1982 conflict itself.
The study has been extended to investigate the total number of deaths for this Falklands cohort, grouped by cause. The figures are published today as an official statistic notice on the defence statistics website (http://www.dasa.mod.uk) and a copy will be placed in the Library of the House.
Key points to note in the data are:
These statistics confirm that the number of suicides among UK veterans of the 1982 Falkland Islands conflict (over the period 14 June 1982 to 31 December 2012) does not exceed the number of service personnel who lost their lives during the 1982 conflict itself, as previously claimed by some groups.
All causes of death are lower than the equivalent general population; in particular the 95 deaths due to suicide among this cohort (including in-service suicides and open verdict deaths) indicate a 35% decreased risk compared with the UK general population.
Moreover, there were significantly fewer deaths in the Falkland Islands veterans’ cohort compared to an equivalent group of the general population (1,335 actual veterans’ deaths compared to an estimated 2,079 for an equivalent general population, which equates to a 36% decreased risk).
Any suicide is a tragedy for the individual and the family involved, but we believe these statistics will enable ongoing well-informed debate to ensure that the nation continues to invest in the right mental health support for service personnel and veterans.
While veterans’ health is the responsibility of the Department of Health and the devolved Administrations, the Ministry of Defence complements the national health services’ delivery through the veterans and reserves mental health programme, which includes provision of mental health assessments for veterans. We also support the Big White Wall, a web-based peer support platform, and the Combat Stress 24-hour mental health helpline.
1 In addition to the 237 UK armed forces deaths during the campaign, four personnel from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, six from the Merchant Navy and eight Hong Kong sailors also died (as well as three Falkland islanders). This study does not include any follow up for these populations.