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Mental Health of Veterans

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:00 am on 11th March 2020.

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Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Armed Forces), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence) 11:00 am, 11th March 2020

The hon. Member for Strangford makes a point that I know is close to his heart. He has spoken about it with eloquence in the past, and he does so again today.

In constituencies such as mine, which is vast and remote, accessing healthcare is already difficult. That makes it particularly hard for veterans like Mark to reach out and share what they have been through with people who have also risked their lives for their country. The Government should be making it easier for veterans, service personnel and their families to connect with one another and access peer-led mental health support. Time and again, the evidence—both numerically, and in people’s personal experience—suggests that peer-to-peer treatment is the most effective form of mental health support for people who are affected by combat trauma. Accessing this kind of mental health support is a battle for those who have risked their lives for their country, and they should not be asked to fight that battle.

I turn to funding. It is the custom in this place to cite lots of statistics, so here are a few. The Care Quality Commission rated two out of four Ministry of Defence mental health centres as inadequate or needing improvement between April 2017 and January 2019, and there were shortfalls of at least 50% in uniformed and civilian psychiatric posts in 2017-18. Those are not good figures. Charities that provide support for veterans, service personnel and their families often receive no Government funding whatsoever. They rely solely on donations and pay no salaries. For example, in the last 11 years, PTSD Resolution treated more than 2,700 veterans, reservists and families.