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A Wide Net

There's now a campaign afoot here in Canada to put the names of soldiers who kill themselves on war memorials. The argument is that they had all suffered psychological wounds as a result of their military service that led them to take their own lives. That seems to me rather a sweeping, not say patronizing, generalisation. The statistics suggest that some of them would probably have killed themselves no matter what their job had been. Suicide is the leading cause of death in England and Wales for males aged 20 to 34. Overall, men are three times as likely to kill themselves as women.  And what about the other victims of combat; the service personnel who take years to die from their injuries? Thanks to massive improvements in the medical treatment, hospital wards have many soldiers in them who 20 years ago would have died from their injuries. Governments keen to keep down the body count from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan put a lot of money into keeping these people breathing. But I wonder now that most of the NATO troops have been withdrawn whether the plugs will now be pulled. War memorials are never comprehensive lists of a community's fallen. Names are always missed out for one reason or another. There are undoubtedly soldiers and former soldiers who do kill themselves for reasons connected with their service. There are others, particularly younger blokes, who simply fail to make the transition from military life to the demands of adult life on civvie street. There is a difference between a dead soldier and a military victim of war. The subject is complex and separating the sheep from the goats is time consuming and, almost certainly, expensive. Perhaps the money would be better spent protecting and restoring mental health amongst service personnel.


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