Today, on St George’s Day, Northern Ireland Veterans from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers marked the public launch of their new Fusiliers vs Suicide suicide intervention website by laying a wreath at the Cenotaph at Belfast City Hall, to remember their colleagues and other Veterans who have lost their lives to suicide.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions only two Veterans were involved in the socially distanced ceremony, which was originally planned to happen in England.
Retired Major Dennis Currie was one of the Veterans who laid the wreath, and said: “Veterans and soldiers are trained to take on the enemy in war, but we know that it can be emotional stresses like broken relationships, separation from children, feelings of shame and guilt, and adverse childhood experiences which can bring the enemy of suicide into someone’s life. Our message is you are not on your own: you still belong, you are not a burden.”
The Fusiliers vs Suicide wreath contains three violet poppies with leaves, set among red poppies. The violet poppies symbolise the deep pain of the suicidal person and the heartache of those bereaved by suicide. The leaves symbolise the hope that Fusiliers vs Suicide want to create through their life-saving initiative.
Retired Army Captain, Andrew Rawding, was also at the laying of the wreath ceremony today, and said: “On St George’s Day twenty two years ago Dennis Currie and I were in a photo together as Regimental Sergeant Major and Adjutant of The Second Battalion of The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, in Celle, Germany. Today, with humility, we laid a wreath to remember those who have lost their lives to suicide and been bereaved by suicide. Twenty two years ago we didn’t always get it right in our responsibility for discipline and well-being. Now we are passionate about doing the right thing to help save lives from suicide.”
Andrew is also the principal website author and an experienced suicide intervention trainer. He added: “Given that the majority of those who complete suicide are not known to mental health services, we decided that a different approach to suicide prevention was needed for Veterans, which was about taking the fight to the enemy of suicide and defeating it by finding those Veterans who are struggling with suicidal thoughts, raising awareness and providing education on suicide intervention skills.”
The retired group of officers and warrant officers who served in Northern Ireland during Operation Banner, as well as in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan have all lost former colleagues to suicide.
The Fusiliers vs Suicide website has been self-funded and set up by a small group of Fusilier Veterans during the COVID-19 lockdown. They were motivated by the suicides of seven Fusiliers (serving and Veterans) in a twelve month period and decided they had to take action.
The website includes a personal video message from Fusilier veteran and former World Champion boxer Nigel Benn, who served in Northern Ireland, and has had his own struggles with suicide. It contains useful resources, and sets out globally-recognised and evidence-based suicide intervention skills.