Hidden epidemic of veteran suicides: SAS soldier's story

A former member of the SAS from South Queensferry has spoken about his own experiences in the army ... to help raise awareness of veteran suicides.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 20th July 2018, 8:35 pm
Updated Friday, 20th July 2018, 8:37 pm

Colin Maclachlan (44) is backing a Johnston Press Investigation calling on the Scottish and Westminster Governments to reveal the suicide statistics.

It’s a subject Colin, sadly, knows far too much about.

For along with Calum MacLeod, a former King’s Own Scottish Borderers veteran, he set up the charity Who Dares Cares in 2016 to help veterans and members of the emergency services who are struggling with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

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South Queensferry man Colin Maclachlan - a former SAS soldier - shared his story with the Johnston Press Investigations team in a bid to throw light on the number of veteran suicides in the UK every year. (Pic: Lisa Ferguson)

They did so because they were continually talking to veterans or chatting on Facebook and social media, only later to discover they had taken their own lives.

Colin said he had lost count of the number of veterans who had committed suicide.

“We have literary hundreds of veteran suicides every year which don’t make the news,” he said.

“Me and Cammy were getting affected. We couldn’t cope with the amount of people.

Who Dares Cares...Colin Maclachlan launched a charity with fellow former soldier Calum MacLeod to try to help veterans suffering from PTSD. (Pic: Lisa Ferguson)

“We would be talking to seven or eight a day – individuals and mutual friends, clubs and societies, and then finding out that one had committed suicide.

“There are too many veterans committing suicide for it not to be related to PTSD and veterans who’ve seen traumatic service.

“It only seems to be when it involves a celebrity that it makes the news though.”

Colin joined the Royal Scots when he was 15 and completed 18 years’ service, including seven in the SAS.

Hidden epidemic...former SAS soldier Colin Maclachlan has lost count of the number of veterans who have taken their own lives. As such, he was more than happy to speak out as part of the Johnston Press Investigation.

He said he felt suited to the SAS as it was “about 80 per cent mental robustness and 20 per cent strength”.

In his first year he was involved in a hijacking at London’s Stansted airport and a jungle rescue in Sierra Leone in West Africa.

But in 2004 an incident occurred in Iraq which affected him deeply.

“We were dropping intelligence officers off in Kuwait and on the way back our car broke down just outside the city in Basra,” he said. “I hijacked a taxi but we got blocked in.

“We were stripped, handcuffed, badly beaten, put against a wall and subjected to mock executions.

“We were taken to a police station. They tried to get us out and later in the day the army rescued us.

“After it was all over there was no real decompression or debriefing.

“I went to Baghdad and cracked on with the rest of the guys. Some of the signs of PTSD, such as being hyper-vigilant and not sleeping well, were there but you just thought you were normal because everyone was going through the same.”

After Colin left the SAS, it was his partner Amanda who recognised his symptoms.

He said: “It sometimes takes an outsider to see it.

“I wasn’t sleeping well. I had to sit with my back to the wall, facing exits, and didn’t want to be in crowds.”

Colin attended Veterans’ First Point, which has centres across Scotland, to get help.

He later completed a degree in history at the University of Edinburgh and now works as a motivational speaker.

In 2015, he also emerged as the star of Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins television series.

Colin added: “The Government writes a cheque when we go to war, they should cash it in when we return and do something for veterans.”

To find out more about the charity he set up, visit who-dares-cares.com.