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Mental Health Support

Volume 637: debated on Monday 5 March 2018

15. What steps he is taking to improve mental health support for members of the armed forces and veterans. (904166)

16. What steps he is taking to improve mental health support for members of the armed forces and veterans. (904167)

The Ministry of Defence works with a range of partners to ensure that service personnel and veterans receive the best mental health support possible. There has been a comprehensive overhaul of our approach to mental health, as I mentioned earlier, with our mental health and wellbeing strategy. However, I stress that the number of mental health cases dealt with in the armed forces is smaller than in the general civilian population.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that organisations such as SSAFA, which runs a weekly support group in my constituency of Southport, play an essential role in providing help and support to veterans, including any mental health support they may need?

There are over 400 military charities that support not just our armed forces and the veterans, but the whole veterans family—the community—and SSAFA is just one of them. It does immensely important work in providing the support that our armed forces and veterans not only deserve, but request.

Mental health problems place a great strain on relationships, while family breakdown can worsen mental health issues. Will the Minister ensure that mental health support extends to service personnel families, with a particular focus on providing support to keep military families together?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is often not the person themselves who steps forward to recognise there is a mental health concern, but the partner, or the husband or wife, a family member or maybe a comrade in their unit. It is important that we provide the necessary support, which we are doing. It is a very macho environment, and unfortunately there has been a stigma attached to putting one’s hand up and saying there is issue, but we are moving forward, not just in society but in the armed forces, in challenging that.

Order. I am sure the House will want to join me in welcoming the visit of a delegation of distinguished Canadian parliamentarians here in the House today: our very good friends from Canada—thank you—who are accompanied by, among others, the hon. Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy).

I am dealing with the sad case of a young man in my constituency who was injured out of the Army, but did not get the treatment he needed. Apparently he slipped through the net because of his junior rank. Will the Minister review his systems to make sure that this does not happen in future?

The hon. Gentleman is very pertinent in what he says. We should have a robust system that can ensure that no person is left behind in any way. I would be more than happy to speak to him afterwards to see what more can be done to help that individual.

In the light of who our guests are, may I say thank you to the Canadians? We held a “Five Eyes” conference on mental health and veterans issues last year, where we compared notes from the “Five Eyes” community to improve all our contributions and better support for our armed forces personnel and veterans.

Sadly, some veterans return from service with mental health conditions and are faced with a shameful lack of resources to help them transition back into civilian life and find employment. I am very proud that a local Hull charity founded by Paul Matson, Hull 4 Heroes, provides them with that much needed support network and voice. Will the Minister join me in celebrating its work, and will he commit to providing our veterans with all the support for transition they desperately need?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. Our transition intervention liaison service works specifically to ensure that the needs of individuals are met as they make the transition from being in the armed forces to being a veteran. I join her in paying tribute to that charity. All such charities across the country—some small, some large—do a huge amount of very important work.