Greater Manchester Police has been praised for becoming the first force in the country to adopt a new scheme to help veterans struggling with their mental health

The scheme, called the Forcer Protocol, will help the police to find armed forces veterans when they go missing. 

It is named after Alan Forcer, who died by suicide following concerns over his whereabouts.

Alan suffered with complex PTSD, extreme anxiety, physical pain, and debilitating depression following service in Northern Ireland and Kosovo during the height of the conflicts

The protocol will help police by having professional carers, family members and friends of veterans fill in a Safe and Found Online form, which records vital information in relation to the veteran in case they go missing.

When a veteran goes missing, police will then follow a three-step approach: 

The Bolton News: Inspector Jim Jones, Claire Lilly, who founded the protocol, and Chief Inspector Mark MangnallInspector Jim Jones, Claire Lilly, who founded the protocol, and Chief Inspector Mark Mangnall (Image: GMP)

The dedicated department dealing with reports from the public will ask whether the person is known to be a veteran in every missing case. The Force Operations Centre can then get direct access to Safe and Found Online, giving them crucial information in a matter of minutes.

GMP will then identify the risk, investigate, and will hopefully locate the missing person safe and well.

A referral is then completed on a Single Veterans Pathway to ensure that the veteran gets the correct support they need, and also will potentially reduce demand on policing in the long-term. 

Armed forces veteran and councillor for Horwich North, Ryan Bamforth, said: "I think this is an amazing thing for veterans, who they are and what they are, as members of the armed forces are trained specifically.

"You can't approach a soldier in the way you approach a civilian because they are very different. 

"I think these measures are potentially life-altering and life-saving for soldiers who are on suicide watch. 

The Bolton News: Cllr Ryan BamforthCllr Ryan Bamforth (Image: Ryan Bamforth)

"It is shocking how many soldiers have taken their own lives. This puts a real-life face to the issue, what I would call a 'pandemic' of soldiers ending their lives." 

Research from the University of Manchester suggests veterans under 25 are two-to-four times more likely to take their own lives than the general population.

Claire Lilly, who founded the Protocol in Alan’s memory added: “In my opinion, preventative measures are ultimately the cure.

"Police forces are key figures within the community and at some point, will encounter a veteran reservist or serving member, so it is extremely important we inform and educate.” 

GMP Chief Inspector Mark Mangnall said: “The Forcer Protocol has been designed to support veterans in our communities, ensuring we reduce the risk to vulnerable people and put support in place to prevent repeat demand by having a joined-up approach to problem solving and sharing accountability with the NHS and Veterans Charities. 

“Serving within and transitioning from the Armed Forces can be an overwhelming experience at times and in some instances difficult and distressing. Essentially, they end up leaving behind a way of life, a lifestyle for which members of the community can be daunting and uncomfortable."