UTTOXETER’S parliamentary candidate is calling for more support for servicemen and women after a surge in cases of mental illness among former soldiers.
Afghanistan veteran Jon Wheale, an ex-Royal Artillery captain, said society has a duty to care for mentally ill servicemen after charity Combat Street said the number of ex-Afghanistan military personnel referred to its services had increased from 228 in 2012 to a record 358 last year – a rise of 57 per cent.
The number of Iraq veterans needing help rose by almost 20 per cent.
Mr Wheale told the Post and Times that all servicemen in need of the extra support should be able to get it for as long as they need the help.
He said: “We ask all those who join the armed services, including many young people not long out of school, to be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice in the service of Queen and country.
“I believe it is only right, therefore, for us to care for them if they suffer any mental ill health as a result of their service, just as we do if they are unfortunate enough to need treatment for any physical injuries.
“Excellent mental health services for current and former servicemen and women, provided for as long as they are required, are a key part of society’s covenant with the armed forces and must continue to remain so.
“It is one of the hallmarks of a decent society.
“Irrespective of where the veteran is, and that includes in prison, they must receive the mental health care that they need.”
The Labour candidate said he had first-hand experience of comrades whose mental health had been significantly affected as a result of their work in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Northern Ireland.
He added that while the treatment provided had improved dramatically in recent years, there remained a continuing need to press the Government – via the Ministry of Defence – to offer better care.
Mr Wheale will be co-hosting a discussion on mental health on July 22 open to all irrespective of their political party.
The special guest speaker will be the Shadow Armed Forces Minister Kevan Jones MP.
Mr Jones has spoken in Parliament about his own battle with mental ill health.
He will visit Burton to talk to people about East Staffordshire’s need for good mental healthcare and the need for a ‘safe space’. Mr Jones will be questioned by health professionals Matt Long and Fiona Rose Mills about his mental health battles.