Why are the BBC/Panorama still trying to push the Veteran suicide myth?

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  • Why are the BBC/Panorama still trying to push the Veteran suicide myth?
  • IanMunro
    Member

    Yeah, I was pretty surprised to see that being advertised too.
    Especially as the R4 had reported all those salient points in May. Very odd.

    Premier Icon Rusty Spanner
    Subscriber

    I heard the same Radio programme debunking the Falklands Suicide myth.

    The answer is, basically, that it’s too good a myth NOT to be true:

    It has elements of tragedy, government incompetence, cover up and the fallability of our heroes.
    It’s the kind of story that everyone secretly loves whilst pretending to be appalled by.
    It reinforces existing prejudices and helps to create new ones.

    The fact that it’s a huge pile of toss has nothing to do with it – the fascinating myth will survive long after the truth is known.

    I really don’t think political bias on either side has anything to do with it – basically, people love a good story & this one ticks all the boxes.

    A good lie can be halfway round the world before the truth has got it’s pants on, as a very wise man in a silly hat once said.

    5thElefant
    Member

    More than 7% of people commit suicide? Really?

    Premier Icon Stoner
    Subscriber

    “of people”

    isnt quite right. the rate will be corrected for sex, age and violent/non-violent deaths. Its not the same as the usual measure of rate per thousand (living) population.

    Premier Icon Stoner
    Subscriber

    big rich – that’s the wrong number to use in this instance.

    Read the extract here to see the use of adjusted mortality rates.

    http://www.dasa.mod.uk/applications/newWeb/www/index.php?page=48&thiscontent=1440&date=2013-05-14&pubType=0&PublishTime=08:30:00&from=home&tabOption=1

    adjusting for cohort characteristics, there was a 35% less chance of a vet dying from suicide than if they were a member of the general population.

    Premier Icon convert
    Subscriber

    It’s also 7% of deaths in that demographic (a demographic that has not in the main reached retirement age so not that many have yet died of natural causes) not 7% of all living and dead veterans.

    Premier Icon Stoner
    Subscriber

    They’re at it again.

    Second headline on the UK news webpage, puffing a Panorama piece:
    “Soldier suicides exceed Afghan toll”
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk/

    1) the comparison is nonsense, They might as well say “Military personnel suicides exceed Military Deaths by sexual auto-asphyxiation” for all the relevance the two numbers have to one another.
    2) The figures given of 21 serving personnel and 29 veterans is meaningless in isolation. 21 out of how many deployed? 29 out of how many veterans and veterans of which conflicts?

    In May, a statistical team at the MOD released analysis of the suicide rate of Falkland vets. The myth continually circulated was that vet suicides since 1982 exceeded the 237 combat deaths during 1982. There were 95 suicides and open verdicts of death of Falkland vets. That represented a 7% suicide rate amongst vet deaths – A LOWER RATE THAN IN THE GENERAL POPULATION!

    When the numbers came out, the BBC binned planned interviews on the subject because they were “uninteresting”. The BBC were hoping for some shocking statistic, but with the evidence published it was apparent their agenda wasnt going to be met. So bias by non-publication was their choice.

    The current BBC report doesnt appear to be bothered with assessing the suicide rate this time either. Just another opportunity to try and shit-stir the pot. What’s the agenda and who’s is it?

    bigrich
    Member

    that’s the wrong number to use in this instance.

    oh right. from the data, it looks like that the suicide rate was the same as the general population between 1989-1992 and 2003-2005.

    do veterans have more access to counselling/support networks than the general population?

    Premier Icon Stoner
    Subscriber

    I think that’s one of the things that the MOD want to emphasise – rather than leave their vets out on a limb, with PTSD diagnoses they do try and provide ongoing care. You wouldnt know it from the Panorama shit stirring though.

    Premier Icon ratherbeintobago
    Subscriber

    Especially as the R4 had reported all those salient points in May

    On More Or Less, IIRC

    jamest
    Member

    Be interesting to know how anyone can collate accurate info on completed suicides as many coroners record open verdicts – rather than ‘death by suicide’ this is because actual suicide (rather then deliberate self harm leading to accidental death or misadventure etc) is hard to fully establish . This makes the figures wooly on both sides of this debate.

    Premier Icon Stoner
    Subscriber

    indeed, which is why the MOD statistics office included Open verdicts in their suicide classification to err on the side of caution.

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    Stoner – Member

    adjusting for cohort characteristics, there was a 35% less chance of a vet dying from suicide than if they were a member of the general population.

    I’m not sure that comparison with the general population is entirely relevant tbh, soldiers are a pretty specific subgroup in the first place and subject to medicals and background checks… Quite a few of the risk factors for mental illness/depression should be screened out and others probably make people less likely to enlist in the first place. But then obviously service abroad introduces risk factors that the general populace doesn’t face. Doesn’t invalidate the results I don’t think, but does make them a bit less ironclad.

    Wonder how you could get around that.

    Oh, worth mentioning that when you compare with the unweighted national averages, the majority of ground troops being male would skew the stats still further- men are about 3 times more likely to commit suicide than women.

    Premier Icon Stoner
    Subscriber

    I doubt they would adjust for the effects of personality screening – very good point – but the cohort statistics will have been adjusted for gender, undoubtedly.

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    Yeah, that was more aimed at anyone looking at external stats, like Bigrich’s there… I don’t think most folks realise the huge gap between men and women, the perception of suicide risk is a bit off I think.

    wrecker
    Member

    MOD support for ex-soldiers is non-existent. As soon as you leave; you’re not their problem and the NHS is ill equipped to treat combat veterans. This is why there are charities like combat stress.
    Gen (retd) Dannat was on the news saying as much and advocating a period of monitoring for leavers (which is what the US do).

    lodious
    Member

    Panorama and Dispatches have become jokes…not much more than Daily Mail level thinking on your telly.

    Premier Icon Kona TC
    Subscriber

    Fully agree with wrecker, the real storey is that servicemen and women once they leave their respective service are lost in to the ‘system’.

    Truth be told neither the BBC nor the Military (Army, Navy or Royal Air Force) have any idea of suicide rates, mental health issues, rough sleepers, etc, etc.

    The sooner we adopt the USA model and support/help/monitor servicemen and women for a period after leaving the better.

    Premier Icon nickc
    Subscriber

    Even if the stats are misleading or even wrong, that 95 men of the Falklands conflict decided to take their own lives, says something about modern warfare. The Falklands war was ( in the bizarre way the Army think about these things) a relatively “good” war, the objective was clear and well supported and understood, motivation was high, and the enemy were often poorly equipped and trained. If then nearly a hundred men decided that that experience was enough to lead them to take their own lives, then imagine for a moment the pysoclgical damage being caused by the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. You only need do a casual search on Youtuve to find dozens of videos of the sorts of intense guerrilla warfare that these soldiers were enduring, this time ( unlike the Falklands) with little or no understanding from a mostly unsympathetic and uncaring general population.

    We are storing up for ourselves as a country a problem of young men often ill educated and ill equipped to deal with the emotional trauma of the modern and vastly more terrifying battlefields. To dismiss this as “statistical fantasies” is to miss the point. We are asking young men to fight in very much more dangerous conflicts, and offering no or little support once they have served their purpose, even such organisations as the British legion are struggling to cope after a series of disastrous re-organisations. If documentaries like Panorama raise the profiles of these men and thier families, then that can only be a positive

    gonefishin
    Member

    Even if the stats are misleading or even wrong, that 95 men of the Falklands conflict decided to take their own lives, says something about modern warfare.

    No it doesn’t. I’m not trying to diminish the tragedy of 95 men taking their own lives, but if this is less than would otherwise have been expected by a similar number of men who hadn’t served in the falkands, then it says nothing at all about the impact of war on those who serve.

    Looking at figures in isolation tells you very little about what they mean. You must always put them into context, and this apparent failure to do so is symptomatic of a lack of understanding of basic statistics in our media.

    Junkyard
    Member

    Even if the stats are misleading or even wrong, that 95 men of the Falklands conflict decided to take their own lives, says something about modern warfare.

    Not really if they are wrong and misleading they say nothing useful.

    If then nearly a hundred men decided that that experience was enough to lead them to take their own lives

    No casual link has been proved with the stats you accept may be frankly crap.

    We are asking young men to fight in very much more dangerous conflicts

    The trenches of WW1 were more dangerous I would assume

    I dont think anyone would say we should not support soldiers after a war but i am not sure that we could assume that every ex soldier who commits suicide does so due to what the experienced in a war.
    It is as dangerous to assume that s it is to assume there is a difference

    edlong
    Member

    If then nearly a hundred men decided that that experience was enough to lead them to take their own lives

    That’s a heck of a leap of logic – the fact that 95 Falklands vets killed themselves does not prove that 95 vets killed themselves BECAUSE OF the Falklands war…

    wrecker
    Member

    Of the 26000 personnel deployed in ’82, I’d like to know how many were front line and see the suicide rates applied to that number. That would be a more realistic reflection of the effects of war IMHO.

    edlong
    Member

    Of the 26000 personnel deployed in ’82, I’d like to know how many were front line and see the suicide rates applied to that number. That would be a more realistic reflection of the effects of war IMHO.

    Not sure I’d agree – e.g. “remf” medics dealing with screaming, dying, burnt to a crisp young men coming off the Sheffield would likely find it pretty traumatic, regardless of their distance from the fighty stuff. I get the impression (none first hand, thankfully) that war can be pretty unpleasant all round.

    wrecker
    Member

    Its still fair to say that some bloke led in a shell scrape, under mortar fire with his bayonet fixed praying that he’s not going to get blown up like his mate is more likely to suffer psychological issues that the bloke cooking corned beef hash in a tent in rear echelon is it not?

    I’m not disrespecting either, but it’s a fact that different jobs experience warfare in very different ways and that those on the front line are far more likely to see the most unpleasant (and petrifying) aspects.

    edlong
    Member

    Fair point wrecker – in some circumstances (e.g. the blitz in London) the civilian population can be more directly exposed to “the horror” than those in deep bunkers..

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