A former soldier who lost both legs while serving in Afghanistan said he knows “quite a few” veterans who have taken their own lives.
Sgt Rick Clement, who stepped on a Taliban improvised explosive device (IED) while on patrol in the Helmand Province in 2010, said he had personally been “fairly fortunate” in only having “one small period where I struggled a bit”.
Sgt Clement, 39, of Fleetwood, said collecting official data on veteran suicides would force the government to face the true scale of the problem.
He said: “Then, at last, they can be forced into making some changes. I think most people would be shocked by the figures that come out. I believe it’s a really big issue.”
Sgt Clement, formerly of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, joined the army before his 17th birthday and said he was “lucky to have good friends and family” when growing up.
He added: “I have found that the guys who struggle more had issues from when they were younger. A lot of people say if they did not join the army, they would have gone to prison.
“That’s all well and good, but they go and see things and are involved in horrible situations, and it all piles up. Then they leave without ever having had to pay their rent or do something for themselves.”
Many end up unemployed, homeless, and isolated.
“I think that’s when these issues start to come to a head,” Sgt Clement said.
“The military needs to find some way they can bridge the gap between the transfer from being a soldier to civilian life.
“They have got a large amount of responsibility towards the welfare of people after they leave, because of what they see and do in the military, which is the bit that adds on to what has previously gone on.”
Because Sgt Clement was seriously wounded in a war zone, he said there is “no argument about what’s wrong with me”.
He said: “It’s there and the doctors have operated.
“With someone struggling mentally, the military can always argue it’s from their upbringing or it’s something else, like struggling to leave the army, and that’s not their problem.”
If you are affected by any of the issues raised by this article, help and advice is available from these organisations:
Veterans Gateway: 0808 802 1212 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
Veterans UK: 0808 1914218 (8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday)
Samaritans: 116 123 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
Combat Stress: 0800 138 1619 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
Help for Heroes: 01980 844280 (weekdays, between 9am and 5pm
Royal British Legion: 0808 802 8080 (8am to 8pm, 7 days a week)