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Reserve Forces: Mental Health Services

Defence written question – answered on 18th July 2013.

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Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation, NATO Parliamentary Assembly (President)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what proposals he has to improve mental health services for current and former Reserve forces personnel.

Photo of Mark Francois Mark Francois The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

holding answer 8 July 2013

The mental health of our personnel and veterans is a top priority for the Government that is why we have committed £7.4 million to ensure there is extensive mental health support in place for those who need it.

Support is out there for service personnel and veterans who are suffering mental health problems. This includes tailored NHS mental health services, priority treatment for veterans with a service related health problem, the Big White Wall online mental well-being service which is available to those serving, their families and veterans on a 24-hour basis and a 24-hour helpline with Combat Stress, so service personnel and veterans can seek help at any time.

Deployed reservists have the same access to mental health services as regulars—including the mental health team deployed on operations in Afghanistan, consisting of three mental health nurses and a visiting consultant psychiatrist. If reservists return to the UK with mental health problems they are not demobilised but would access treatment through the Ministry of Defence's (MOD) Department of Community Mental Health (DCMH) in the UK.

If a reservist develops a mental health problem after demobilisation they are entitled to high-quality mental healthcare from the NHS. In addition reservists deployed overseas since 2003 are able to attend the Veterans and Reserves Mental Health Programme in Chilwell. This provides mental health assessments, and, if diagnosed to have a combat-related mental health condition, out-patient treatment for reservists via one of the DCMHs.

In the recently published White Paper on Reserve Forces we proposed the extension of occupational health provision to ensure consistent access to these services for all reservists. This will provide a mechanism to identify a range of issues, including mental health problems, and assess the implications in the context of service in the reserves.

As part of the Government's ongoing commitment to ex-service personnel with mental health problems, £2.5 million from the LIBOR fines has been awarded to programmes which will support mental health programmes for veterans in the future.

In addition, the right policies and intervention strategies must be underpinned by good quality evidence. To this end, the MOD funds a considerable amount of research into mental health issues, for example, the broad range of studies undertaken by the King's Centre for Military Health Research, including those covering reservists.

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