COMMENT: County council leader Louise Goldsmith backs our veteran suicides campaign

Louise Goldsmith
Louise Goldsmith

Yesterday, this newspaper launched a campaign alongside other Johnston Press titles calling for better recording of the hidden issue of suicides of ex-servicemen and women (Tuesday, July 17).

A three-month investigation found no comprehensive official records are kept of the number of British ex-servicemen and women dying as a result of suicide. Click here for the full story.

Today, West Sussex County Council leader Louise Goldmsith – herself the mother of a serviceman – has written in support of our call. Here is her comment:

When a son or daughter leaves home to join the services their family grows. They embrace a new family of the corps or regiment.

Royal Marine, Navy, Army or Air Force from the start you train together, you live together in camp, you eat together, you learn how to rely on one and other and the importance of looking out for each another, that is part of soldiering. You share the trials and the joys.

Whether working on camp, in the field or in the theatre of war these brave service personnel work together whatever the situation – that is what they trained for and we know that our forces are one of the best well trained in the world.

In times of peace they never know when they are to be called out and in war they never know what they will be called out to – or whether they will return.

We know Iraq and Afghanistan, in particular, tested our service personnel to perform their best under extreme duress, they faced sights we could not even imagine and the next shell, bullet or land mine could be their last – that is the nature of warfare. We who sit in our chairs at home reading the paper or watching TV as events unfold have no comprehension of what life is like, nor do we have to cope with the memories or visions and while service personnel are debriefed and helped – you simply can’t erase a memory like a pencil sketch on a piece of paper and that’s the issue with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – it often sits ticking away waiting to randomly be triggered.

As a mother of a serviceman I have been as proud as I have been terrified in times of conflict.

For us civilians on the outside it is difficult to understand the total commitment and dedication of our service people who put queen and country first.

Talk to nearly any service personnel and you will hear the same comments – ‘best days of my life, I enjoyed the camaraderie and the fun we had’. When service people retire and leave it is a huge life changing time which can be very stressful – that is one of the reason the Military Covenant was set up.

We know many veterans (and yes a veteran can be a 30 year old) cope well when they have left the service and adjust to civilian life but for others that is not the case.

They miss the friendship and support – and when things get tough such as family bereavement, breakdown, lack of employment, financial problems, or PTSD appears these brave people find dealing with such issues, away from the friendships on camp, difficult. They find sharing and relating to people outside the military impossible and then that’s where the spiral of decline can start- depression, alcoholism or drug taking, becomes a way of live as does homelessness – it is a black pit that often leads to suicidal thoughts and then possibly suicide.

It is a terrible end for brave people who gave their all for our peace which is why I believe we must all support this campaign. One suicide is one too many, as a society we owe it our servicemen and women to stand shoulder to shoulder with them.