The inquest into the death of Olivia Perks, a 21-year-old trainee military officer who died at Sandhurst military academy in 2019, has been told that she had previously attempted suicide and had been bullied and ostracised by her peers. Perks’s death is also being treated as a potential hate crime, as she was openly bisexual.
According to her family, Perks was a “kind, caring and compassionate” young woman. However, her mental health appears to have suffered during her time at Sandhurst. She had attempted suicide in October 2018 and was later diagnosed with depression and anxiety, requiring psychiatric treatment. The inquest heard that, despite requesting help from her superiors, Perks was sometimes left waiting months before receiving psychiatric support. Her father has said that Perks was “thrown into a state of heightened vulnerability” by her experiences at Sandhurst.
Perks’s death is part of a larger pattern of concern over mental health care in the military. There has been a significant rise in suicide rates among serving members of the armed forces in recent years, and many have suggested that the military’s mental health support services are inadequate. In 2020, for instance, it was revealed that almost a quarter of military personnel had reported mental health problems during their service, with many former soldiers and veterans criticising the lack of available support.
The inquest into Perks’s death continues, and her family will no doubt be hoping for more answers about why their daughter suffered so much during her time at Sandhurst. However, there is already a sense that this case highlights the need for better mental health care for military personnel at all levels. There is a growing recognition that serving in the military can lead to significant psychological harm, and that more needs to be done to prevent that harm from occurring, as well as to support those who do suffer from mental health problems. Hopefully, Perks’s death will spur the military into taking more decisive action in this area.