Two ex-soldiers who served together in the same regiment have taken their own lives.
Close pals Damon Hakin and George Ellis, both formerly of 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, died within weeks of each other.
Damon, 25, passed away on February 20 while travelling in Australia. George, 24, died on April 30 – a month after attending his friend’s funeral.
George’s devastated dad Adrian, 59, said: “I wouldn’t wish what has happened to my family on my worst enemy.
” I had a fantastic relationship with George. It was very open.”
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Adrian, who works in the Humber Bridge control room, added: “A while ago the father of a friend of his shot himself and George said to me, ‘Dad if you ever find yourself in a dark place never do anything like that. I’m here for you and we can always talk’.
“I had recently said the same to him after I had experienced some tragic events at the Humber Bridge.
“I don’t know why George took his life.
” I know that he was really upset by Damon’s death.
“He was in tears and couldn’t believe that one of his friends had taken his own life.
“But his life was good. He had recently started a new well-paid job, he had a good relationship with his girlfriend.
“I think it must have been some sort of tragic accident, almost like a spur of the moment event.
“We got a text from him saying that he was going to kill himself and he was later found by some of his life-long friends at our home.”
George enlisted at 16 and trained at the Army Foundation College, Harrogate.
The private left the Yorkshire Regiment in 2018 and became a telecoms engineer.
Adrian, from Barton upon Humber, North Lincs, and married to Carol, 54, said his daughter Amie, 29, a nurse, was grief stricken by her brother’s death.
He said: “It is so important for people to talk about their problems. Too many young soldiers and veterans are taking their own lives and we must do something to stop this.”
After learning of Damon’s death, George wrote on Facebook : “Damon Hakin, what a bloke you was. Always smiling and always the first one on the cans come Friday fall out. You’ll be missed massively mate.”
After George’s death an Army pal, Matthew Mains, described it as “genuinely devastating”.
He added: “It’s a recurring issue with ex-Army lads doing the unthinkable.
“The stigma behind ‘getting out’ needs to change. Too many lads struggle to transition but there’s such a lack of support for any of us.
“The Army life everyone becomes accustomed to is lost when you get out but the Army does little to try to make sure you’re all right and then lads decide they have no choice but to do the unthinkable.”
The deaths of the two ex-soldiers bring the number of veterans who have taken their own lives this year to 20.
More than 250 serving and former personnel have died from suicide since 2018 but the number is only an estimate as the Ministry of Defence does not record veterans’ deaths.
Damon, from Doncaster, South Yorks, joined up aged 17 in 2012 and left three years ago.
He and George served together in Canada and took part in exercises and parades. Damon was found dead in a hostel in Sydney after telling dad Paul he was feeling very low.
Paul, 55, also from Doncaster, said: “Everybody saw him as someone who was happy-go-lucky and always laughing and joking.
“He never had a bad word to say about anybody. He always wanted to help people and he was a very conscientious lad.”
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But he added: “It can be quite difficult for these young men thrown into this world of masculinity and a squaddie environment and he was only 17 years old.
“He never saw any active duty but he did OK. He got promoted to Lance Corporal and they sung his praises about being a good mentor to young recruits.
“He had these dark moments and the Army did try to help him.”
Damon spoke to his dad a week before taking his own life, with the anniversary of the loss of a friend playing on his mind at the time.
Paul went on: “He called me the week before and he was in quite a dark place.
“His best friend died in a motorbike accident and when the anniversary came round it used to knock him for six.
“It was early in the morning in Australia and he was drinking and he was down.
“I said, ‘You’ve got to try and pick yourself up’ and we had a 30-minute chat on the phone.”
A week later the dad received the news no parent ever wants after police called on Damon’s mum Trina, Paul’s ex-wife. Paul said: “It’s sunk in now and I would say I have good and bad days.
“Some days I’m quite down and his mum and brother are the same. It’s hard for us to know that he was on his own, and you just think, ‘What if’?”
Ex-Royal Marine Sergeant Major Jeff Williams runs support group Veterans United Against Suicide.
He said: “The Government constantly says that it takes veterans’ mental health seriously. But ministers have no idea how many have died from suicide, how many are in prison or how many suffer from mental health problems.”
The Sunday People has been campaigning for better mental health care for serving soldiers and veterans.
The Office for Veterans’ Affairs said: “Any suicide is a tragedy and we have increased mental health support for veterans so they can get help.
“This includes the mental health and wellbeing service, Op Courage, in England. The Veterans’ Gateway also provides a single point of contact for anyone needing support.”