Today the Government made a statement in the House of Commons about serving and former members of the armed forces ending their lives, following an internal review commissioned by the Secretary of State for Defence.
Responding to the statement in the Commons for the official opposition, Shadow Defence Minister Stephen Morgan MP probed the Minister for Defence People and Veterans to push for faster action.
The Portsmouth South MP identified three main areas that require urgent action by Government.
The need for Ministers to ensure coroners start to record veteran suicide, address the number of veterans not seeking mental health support, and improvements to the transitional support services offered backed up with proper funding.
Responding to the Minister’s statement, Stephen Morgan MP said:
“I welcome the Minister’s statement today; nonetheless, there is still much more that needs to be done.
We know that some veterans who struggle ultimately and tragically end up taking their own lives. Indeed, there are reports that 14 former and current serving personnel have committed suicide in the past 2 months alone – many of them having served in Afghanistan.
The Minister has raised the point about data collection for serving personnel, however, we do not know the full scale of this crisis for veterans because unlike major allies such as Canada, New Zealand, and the US, coroners in the UK do not record veterans’ suicides. This lack of data makes it extremely difficult to know the full scale of the problem but also makes it difficult to be able to provide better, more targeted interventions”.
Mr Morgan also raised the fact that additional funding offered to veteran’s services in the Budget was merely a drop in the ocean. Citing the fact that veterans’ services currently only receive the equivalent of 0.007% of the NHS budget.
A Defence Select Committee report revealed that 60% of veterans requiring support fail to seek services due to issues around stigma was also raised.
Mr Morgan added:
“Our armed forces work hard to keep us safe so that we can live our lives to the full without fear. Day in day out, they do things that cross the line into the remarkable. It is only just, fair and right that we have veteran’s mental health care provision worthy of these men and women.
Tragically, we hear case after case of stories similar in nature to that of David Dukes that I shared last year. Every moment of dither and delay puts more veterans at risk. There are simple steps we can make immediately that will bring about major change.
I hope the government now gives this important issue the urgency it deserves. It is high time to move beyond study after study, to action after action. “