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Sunday, 13 January, 2002, 15:17 GMT
Falkland veterans claim suicide toll
British troops on the Falklands
Many soldiers were traumatised during the brief conflict
More veterans of the Falklands War have killed themselves in the years since the 1982 conflict ended than died during hostilities, according to a veterans support group.

The South Atlantic Medal Association say they are "almost certain" the suicide toll is greater than 255 - the number of men killed in the war.

The association estimates the total could be 264, according to a report in the Mail on Sunday.

The stiff upper lip brigade ... are just making things worse by ignoring the problem

Denzil Connick
Co-founder Denzil Connick blamed the suicide rate on the "stiff upper lip brigade" and a lack of resources to tackle Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The ex-paratrooper, who lost a leg in the Falklands, said: "Nobody knows the official figures for suicides - that is one of the problems.

"But we know for sure we have lost an average of 10 veterans per year since the conflict ended.

"That makes 200 veterans who have committed suicide and that is bound to be a conservative estimate.

"I am almost certain there will be dozens more that we do not know about and the figure is likely to be more than 255.

Freefall death

"Research carried out into Vietnam veterans and Israeli ex-servicemen shows a similar pattern so this shouldn't come as a big surprise."

The suicide statistic emerged in the wake of the death last week of Charles "Nish" Bruce, an SAS veteran and freefall expert who served in Falklands conflict and Northern Ireland.

Mr Nish plunged 5,000ft from a plane without a parachute.

Mr Connick, himself a PTSD sufferer, added: "Unfortunately, one of the things about PTSD is that you can get other conditions associated with it such as alcoholism and drug abuse.

"Sufferers almost always have difficulty forming relationships and some have flashbacks or difficulties in crowded areas such as supermarkets.

Court action

"Many also end up behind bars because they have become violent or they have just reached the end of the line."

A case against the MoD, brought by 260 former servicemen from various conflicts, will begin on 1 March, the Mail on Sunday reported.

The men say their condition was not diagnosed or treated while they were still in the forces

Mr Connick argued: "The stiff upper lip brigade may accuse me of exaggerating the problem or dramatising it but they are just making things worse by ignoring the problem.

"This is a massive problem and it is one that is growing.

Falklands tour

"What the government has to do is make more funds available to support organisations such as Combat Stress, which works with ex-servicemen suffering psychiatric illnesses."

The MoD refused to comment on the upcoming legal action.

But a spokesman added: "We acknowledge some members of the armed services have traumatic experiences."

Meanwhile, a Falklands War commander is to lead a travel tour to the South Atlantic islands to mark the 20th anniversary of the conflict.

UK tourists will be taken around key sites of the 1982 war by Major General Julian Thompson, who was commander of the Royal Marines Commandos and Parachute Battalions.

The tour, organised by the Steppes Latin America holiday company for March, will include the sites of the British landings, the memorial to Lieutenant Colonel "H" Jones, who won a posthumous VC, and tours of the battlefields.

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