A coroner wants troops to be screened for mental health issues after two from the same regiment hanged themselves within weeks of each other.
Joseph McCrisken, coroner for Northern Ireland, wrote to Army chiefs urging them to act.
He hit out after Lance Corporal James Ross, 30, from Leeds, died in Ballykinler Army base following two tours in Afghanistan with The Rifles.
Just weeks later a second Afghanistan veteran, Rifleman Darren Mitchell, 20, from London, was found hanged in the same barracks in December 2012.
Since then at least six former members of their battalion have killed themselves and several serving soldiers have self-harmed.
The parents of Lance Corporal Ross and Rifleman Mitchell – who served with C Company 2 Rifles – had to wait more than six years for an inquest to find out why their sons had died.
Coroner Mr McCrisken ruled in February that James’s death was accidental but that Darren intended to take his own life.
After the inquest he wrote to the chief of the defence staff, explaining he had heard evidence that soldiers – especially young ones – were reluctant to admit mental problems like PTSD.
“One former soldier who gave evidence thought regular mandatory screening for mental health problems might take the stigma out of seeking help since the onus would not be on the soldiers to actively seek it,” he wrote.
In reply, defence chief General Sir Nick Carter said top brass were convinced that screening troops before deployment was not just ineffective but “potentially harmful” after studies.
The response was blasted by Lance Corporal Ross’s mum Linda Ketcher, 61. She said: “His attitude is insulting and shows a blatant lack of care.
“Screening would highlight issues and hopefully save lives.”
We are calling for better treatment of victims in our Save our Soldiers campaign.
In the past 18 months at least 136 personnel and veterans are thought to have taken their lives.
The Ministry of Defence said a King’s College London study of pre and post-deployment screening showed it was ineffective in predicting PTSD.
“We are always looking to improve the help we offer to those who serve,” the MoD added.