I am advised that the Defence Forces Personal Management System does not capture data on the number of suicides of serving members of the Defence Forces. However, I have been further advised that a review by the Defence Forces into 179 non-service related deaths among members of the Defence Forces in the period 2000 to 2012 shows that 30 were apparently of self-inflicted injuries. Of these 30 deaths by apparent self-inflicted injury, 14 had previously been prescribed Lariam, 16 were not prescribed Lariam and 4 of these had not served overseas.
The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) has informed my Department that since Lariam was first licensed for use in Ireland in 1989, the HPRA has received a total of 120 reports of suspected adverse reactions/events associated with its use. The HPRA further advised that there is no requirement to provide information on a person’s occupation in reports of suspected adverse reactions submitted to the HPRA. Statistics on reports associated with either current or ex-members of the Defence Forces are not therefore available.
While there is no mandatory legal requirement on an individual or medical practitioner to report adverse reactions to any medication, it is open to anyone to report issues relating to safety and quality of healthcare products to the HPRA. This includes patients, carers, other members of the public and healthcare professionals. I can confirm that individual Defence Forces Medical Officers have reported adverse reactions to the HPRA in accordance with standard practice.
The health and welfare of the men and women of the Defence Forces is a high priority for me and the Defence Forces. The Defence Forces, through their Personnel Support Services (PSS), engage in extensive suicide awareness and education programmes for all members of the Defence Forces. These programmes include:-
- Issuing an “Information Guide on Mental Health and Well Being in the Defence Forces”;
- Issuing and giving presentations on “Defence Forces Guidelines on Suicide”;
- Running courses on “Suicide and Self Harm Awareness”;
- Providing access to “Mental Fitness” programmes through the Defence Forces Intranet;
- Providing WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) training to all PSS personnel;
- Conducting STORM (Skills Training on Risk Management in suicide and self harm mitigation ) training with all overseas units;
- Providing ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) training in conjunction with the HSE;
- Conducting Safe Talk training within the Defence Forces;
- Providing CISM (Critical Incident Stress Management) training for all personnel; and
- Issuing a PSS Booklet entitled “Defence Forces Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention”
There is a PSS office in every major military installation, with one or more qualified Barrack PSS Officers. The role of the Barrack PSS Office includes providing information, assistance and counselling on a range of matters including interpersonal problems, stress , bereavement, housing, education, taxation, social welfare and retirement. As part of the PSS office civilian social workers are also available to support Defence Forces personnel and their families. In addition an independent and strictly confidential 24 hour care-line, manned by trained counsellors, is available to all Defence Forces personnel.