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Mental Health Provision

Volume 663: debated on Monday 8 July 2019

We can be proud of the changes we have introduced through the armed forces mental health and wellbeing strategy—which I inherited when I came into this job from my predecessor as Armed Forces Minister. Of all the things we have been involved in, we can be particularly proud of changing the stigma associated with mental health issues in the armed forces, getting more people to talk about it and moving it towards parity with physical injury. There is still much work to do, but we are heading in the right direction.

I thank the Minister for that response and congratulate the Government on what they are doing. Will the Minister set out what steps his Department is taking to achieve that parity of esteem, which is so important to serving personnel?

The challenge we faced was that people were reluctant to come forward. They thought that if they put their hand up and said there was something wrong with their mind, that would somehow impact on their ability to be promoted or hold them back in some way. They would keep their problems to themselves, which would then incubate and eventually they would have to quit the very thing they loved: the armed forces. We have changed that with our focus on promoting better resilience, prevention to stop these things happening, and earlier detection and treatment. From putting that all together we are seeing far better results with people staying in the armed forces and not being hindered or affected by mental health issues.

According to the Centre for Mental Health, there is not a greater likelihood of veterans experiencing mental ill health than the rest of the population, but there is a significant increase in the likelihood of their having problems with alcohol, so can the Minister tell us what he is doing specifically on the issue of alcohol misuse among veterans, which is something I see in my community?

I am really pleased that the hon. Lady has put this in context because a myth is perpetuated that those who join the armed forces will be affected by mental challenges, but she is right that there are other challenges that we face, not least with alcoholism. We work closely with a number of charities, and we are also doing work as part of the transition services so that people are aware of where they can get treatment early on.