This evening, Stephen Morgan MP led a Westminster Hall debate on Veteran Suicide at the request of local groups such as All Call Signs. This provided members from all the major political parties to hold the Government Minister responsible to account and raise the important issues relative to the topic.
Two main convictions were consistently made by a plethora of members. Firstly, that the MoD needs to start recording veteran suicides.
Opening the debate, Mr. Morgan has said:
“Currently, only 1 out of 98 coroners across England and Wales records the detail that the deceased in a suicide case is a veteran, meaning that the scale of the problem is unknown.
Without a quantifiable record, we do not know the severity of the problem. Current estimates project that it could be as high as one ex-serviceperson every seven days but without detailed analysis, the problem has the potential to be far worse.”
Secondly, MPs stressed the need for a more tailored approach to mental health care. Veteran-Specific mental health funding received just 0.007% of the NHS £150 billion budget, this means that many veterans are being let down by the civilian services that are not equipped to deal with their complex needs.
On the matter, the Portsmouth MP said:
“I have been told by exceptional grassroots organisations such as Forgotten Veterans and All Call Signs that we need tailored, bespoke mental health care that is in line with the experiences of the brave men and women who have put themselves in harm’s way for our benefit”
The sentiment expressed by Mr. Morgan and others is exemplified by the survey, commissioned by Help for Heroes, that found nearly 30% of veterans put off visiting mental health services on the grounds that they believe civilian services will not understand their needs.
Mr. Morgan’s speech focused heavily on the human aspect of the plight and told the story of David Jonathon Jukes, a veteran who was let down by a litany of mental health services resulting in him tragically taking his own life in October 2018.
An extract of the speech read:
“I love my family but hate my life. I need help. I’m scared now it hurts”
These are the words sent in an email to the mental health services by David Jonathon Jukes who served in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq twice and Afghanistan.
David Jukes was incredibly brave. As is his wife Jo, who has given me permission to share this heart-wrenching story. Despite what he did for his country, in his time of need, Dave was let down. “
Mr. Morgan explained after the debate that the speech told Dave’s story in an attempt to highlight to the government the very human aspect of the need to record these statistics.
In response to the to main point made by Stephen Morgan, that data needs to be kept of ex-service personnel who take their own lives, the Minister agreed that it was a problem but refused to confirm that the government was willing to implement the changes.
Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP agreed that “data is critical” and that the Government is “fully aware that data needs to be collected” but did not make any solid commitments to begin doing so.
In response to the Minister’s comments, Mr. Morgan said:
“The Minister today, as expected, has offered us nothing new. I find it highly contradictory that he both agreed that the Government had no data whilst simultaneously spouting the incorrect statistics that suicide amongst the veteran community is actually lower than that of the civilian population.
The reason that this debate has been tabled, with the support of veteran’s charities, is because we do not know the figures and we are concerned that progress will be slow until we do.”
The Minister suggested that the Government had made steps in the right direction by appointing a Minister for Suicide, the fact that she was not there frustrated many of those from the veteran’s charity sector who were observing.
Whilst Mr. Morgan hit home the need for increased support for our veterans, he informed the chamber that many of those who serve in the armed forces do not face hardship with regards to mental health.
The speech stated:
“In the UK there are around 5 million members of the Armed Forces community, and we see around 15,000 men and women leave service each year.
It is important to stress that the majority of these individuals do not experience a decline in mental health upon their transition to civilian life.
But we are here today to talk about those who do“.
Following the debate, when pressed on his views on the government’s response to his questions Mr. Morgan said:
“I and the others who joined me here today such as All Call Signs will not be deterred by the Government’s substandard, disjointed response to our questions.
I will continue to raise the matters of veteran-specific mental health services and the need for the Government to start recording veteran suicides both in Parliament and out until veterans get the respect they need and deserve.
I will be writing a letter to the Minister tomorrow to request more comprehensive responses to my questions.”