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House of Commons Hansard
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Armed Forces: Mental Health Support
15 January 2018
Volume 634
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17. What steps his Department is taking to improve mental health support for members of the armed forces. [903271]

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There has been a comprehensive change in how we deal with mental health issues in the armed forces, as outlined in the mental health and wellbeing strategy, which I was privileged to launch last year. We are already seeing the start of a cultural change in removing the stigma that for so long has been associated with those wanting to raise mental health concerns during their service time.

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I thank the Minister for that reply. A recent report found that just 31% of our armed forces personnel and veterans with recent mental health problems had accessed a mental health specialist. Does he agree that the high rates of medical discharge among UK personnel might prevent people from seeking help for fear it might end their career? What will the Government do to encourage service personnel with mental health issues to seek help?

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The hon. Lady is absolutely right, and it is why we had to introduce such a fundamental change in our strategy. People were not coming forward. If someone has a knee injury, they declare it, they show it, they get it sorted out and they get back into the line. If they had something wrong with their mind, soldiers, sailors and air personnel were reticent to step forward. That is now changing. We are changing the stigma, and we are grateful to the support of the Royal Foundation for providing funding for extra studies on this important matter.

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Does my right hon. Friend agree that we need to be very careful with this narrative on veterans? If we go too far down the road of promoting the idea that we are all broken and contribute nothing, it will not help us to beat the challenge and to present mental health treatments on a fair and acceptable footing for our armed forces.

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I shall take this opportunity to explain that the absolute majority of the 14,000 who leave the armed forces every single year make the transition into civilian life without a problem. In fact, 90% or so are either in education or in a job within six months. However, some require support, and often that they do not know where to find that support. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State mentioned the armed forces veterans’ gateway, which is an important portal that opens up more than 400 military-facing charities that can provide that support for our deserving veterans.