The right to recover

When a member of the armed forces community goes missing and believed to be at risk of self harm or suicide, we rally. We share the news, we help where we can and we do our damnedest to make sure that the individual involved makes it home safe. We’re united in our wish for a positive outcome. But for most of us, the point where they’re found safe is where the information stream ends. We collectively exhale a sigh of relief and we move on with our day.

For the individual and their family/friends, the story is only just beginning. The road to recovery from low mood or thoughts of suicide can be long and arduous.

For those closest, there is the constant fear of a repeat episode. The niggling realisation that they were lucky this time, but next time might be different. They’re are a lot of feelings to work through; frustration at the individual for not being able to talk it through, relief that they’re okay, and how ever many more emotions running high. Everyone copes differently.

For the person themselves, they could be feeling anything from exhaustion at having come so close to a irreversible decision, guilt for putting their loved ones through stress, hope that things can get better from here, ambition to recover from the darkness that brought them to where they are. Again, everyone copes differently.

If they haven’t been in contact with services that help veterans and armed forces personnel deal with mental ill health, then it’s likely this will start now, there may be counselling or medication involved. Perhaps both.

On top of all that, there’s the added issue that they’re now online famous for being at a low point. Between service like Beacon, missing persons reports and veteran groups etc, their picture and story could be known to hundreds of thousands of people, maybe millions. And that in itself (while totally necessary at the time they were in danger) can be a barrier to recovery. “Everyone is talking about me”. One more worry on an already long list.

As important as it is for us to share the danger an individual is in, it is equally important that we give them the right to recover. To that end, All Call Signs is recommending an agreement between the all who help locate missing or at risk persons.

Right to recover: The 14 day rule

Once a person is found safe, we submit that the information that is shared about them on websites, public social media posts and other networks is removed within 14 days, immediately where practicable. This gives them back their anonymity and allows the individual to focus on their recovery. You don’t need to sign anything or add your name anywhere but if you think that people deserve the right to recover after incidents bought on by mental health issues, then feel free to share this link, and more importantly, abide by the 14 day rule.


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