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Armed Forces: Bullying and Suicide

Question for Ministry of Defence

UIN 204882, tabled on 9 July 2014

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what recent steps he has taken to prevent (a) bullying and (b) suicide in the armed forces.

Answered on

17 July 2014

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has a zero tolerance policy in respect of bullying in the Armed Forces and our aim is an inclusive working environment that delivers opportunities for all, recognises and values diversity, and eradicates bullying.

I refer the hon. Member to the answers I gave on 24 February 2014 (Official Report, column 65W), to the hon. Member for Bridgend (Madeleine Moon), for details of recent steps taken to prevent bullying.

Every suicide is a tragedy and our thoughts remain with the families of all those who have sadly taken their own lives. Suicide among members of the Armed Forces remains rare and is lower than comparative rates in the civilian population.

The MOD is committed to providing our Service personnel with the highest level of mental health and welfare support. Commanding officers in each of the Services are given clear guidance on the management of individuals who are potentially vulnerable or at risk for a variety of reasons, including the risk of suicide or deliberate self-harm.

The Suicide Vulnerability Risk Management (SVRM) policy is a preventive strategy used by the Army that allows the identification of individuals who may be at risk and signposts appropriate responses and management tools to be used by the chain of command.In autumn 2014, a number of mental health study days will be launched across the Army with particular emphasis on SVRM and training on post-operational stress management, trauma risk management and debt awareness.

Royal Navy Medical Officers now employ structured mental health assessments as a tool for assessing the mental health of officers and routinely employ the tool during Service Medical Examinations. This service is readily accessible at all baseports and urgent assessments are offered within one working day.

The Royal Air Force has recently revised its Management and Resilience Policy. Since November 2013, the RAF Stress Management and Resilience Team (SMARTT) has been producing and trialling a ‘Suicide Awareness' package in association with Mental Health professionals. SMARTT is due to begin a training programme to enable units to deliver the package to their personnel.