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HUNDREDS of British troops are self-harming, shocking new figures published by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) revealed yesterday.
Nearly 500 troops have been registered as having self-harmed since records began at the start of the decade, with younger members of the armed forces the most likely to “inflict damage” on themselves.
The figures also show that troops aged under 20 are now harming themselves at twice the rate they were five years ago.
The army has higher rates of self-harm than the navy and air force, with female troops more vulnerable than their male counterparts. Officers are less likely to do so than the rank and file.
The department published the shocking statistics after a coroner demanded to see them as part of an investigation into the alleged suicide of a young recruit at Deepcut barracks, Surrey. Private Geoff Gray, 17, died in disputed circumstances while on guard duty at Deepcut in 2001.
The MoD defines self-harm as the “deliberate intent to inflict damage or alter oneself which does not result in death.” The department claims the latest self-harm figures are in line with the general population, but critics are concerned about mental health in the military.
Emma Sangster from campaign group Forces Watch said: “It’s a great concern that there are so many cases of self-harm in the military and it is very likely that the situation is worse than these figures show given that many cases will never be identified.”
The MoD has admitted that its previous data on self-harm contained “incorrect information” and that “human error” had resulted in a number of suicides being wrongly recorded.
Anti-war activist Symon Hill from the Peace Pledge Union is also concerned by the latest figures. He told the Morning Star that self-harm “can be attributed in part to the lack of effective mental health support for people living and working in warzones and other extreme situations.”
But Mr Hill warned: “Military training is rooted in bullying and mental conditioning. It aims to remove the natural human aversion to killing, an aim that is hardly compatible with good mental health.
“While some individuals may speak of their positive experiences in the armed forces, today’s news is yet further evidence that military life for many is distressing, demeaning and dehumanising.”
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