For everything it is today, All Call Signs set out with one very clear goal; to reduce the number of suicides in the veteran and serving community. Every action we have taken since has been in service to that goal and it remains the core aim of everything we do here. Our award-winning peer support workers work with clients experiencing mental ill health and social hardship every day, and our volunteer listeners engage community members of low mood to reduce feelings of loneliness or isolation.
When we think about suicide prevention, however, our mind naturally goes to the Beacon alerts system that has been so integral to ensuring individuals at risk of self harm or suicide are located and supported. And rightly so. Since its launch, Beacon has been launched over 160 times, with a 95% success rate. Unfortunately, we as a community have still lost people, and we will continue to look at ways to improve the service and reduce the number of suicides to zero.
Beacon works by alerting the veteran community to individuals at risk and maintaining a channel of communication from those with information to those in charge of bringing that person to safety. When the circumstances are right, Beacon helps coordinate search assets between emergency services, search and rescue teams and veterans in the community willing to help.
Preserving the golden hour
One area we have identified that improvements can be made is in the collection and dissemination of information when veterans and service personnel go missing. As you can imagine, the first few hours of a search are extremely important. While it’s hard to put a figure on how important, we do know that individuals have been able to take their lives in the time between going missing and the information around their going missing being made available to the public.
Many of the veterans and service personnel who go missing, and are believed to be at risk of self harm or suicide, are known to mental health services and third sector mental health support organisations. Much of the information we share in order to bring around their safe recovery is known before they ever go missing (location, physical description, image etc). Collecting this information for individuals who have expressed a likelihood to take their own life could save vital minutes, even hours in the process of getting them to safety.
Radar works with veterans, service personnel, mental health services and third sector mental health support organisations to collate relevant information regarding members of the military community considered to be at risk of suicide or self harm. We expect this to reduce the time taken to alert the general public, and improve our ability to recover individuals. Quicker response means a smaller search area. It means less likelihood an individual can come to harm. It means information being passed forward will be more timely and therefore more useful for the emergency services and search and rescue teams.
How it works
Individuals can register themselves with Radar if they are concerned about their mental health in a proactive step to help service providers and emergency services locate them at points of crisis.
Service providers can also register their clients (with their consent) to Radar, as can emergency services coming into contact with veterans and service personnel at risk.
An example of use would be a veteran taken to A&E following a suicide attempt. After a mental health assessment they could be released home and referred to a mental health crisis team. Depending on time of day, day of the week or location, this could involve a significant period of time without support. If they were registered with Radar by the mental health team at A&E, and reported as missing by a family member who believes they will make another attempt on their life, then a search response could be launched in minutes instead of hours.
Another example would be an individual who has self registered with Radar and shared information about where they might go when making an attempt on their life (a suicide plan is common among those condisdering it). This information could be passed on to the emergency in the event they went missing and increase the likelihood that they are positively recovered.
Radar will launch as part of services update on the 30th June and its use will be encouraged among our members and service delivery partners. We look forward to sharing more about its use once it goes live.