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Veterans minister: Mental health challenge has ripped apart my circle of friends

Former Army captain Johnny Mercer MP has been tasked with setting up the Office for Veterans’ Affairs, which includes improving mental health care.

Veterans minister Johnny Mercer (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Veterans minister Johnny Mercer (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

By Patrick Daly, PA Political Correspondent

Former Army captain Johnny Mercer has vowed to provide veterans with the “best mental health care in the world” after admitting post-combat stress “ripped apart” those he served with.

Chancellor Sajid Javid confirmed during Wednesday’s spending round that the newly established Office for Veterans’ Affairs would be given £5 million to help address the post-service needs of armed forces personnel.

Veterans minister Mr Mercer, who served in Afghanistan with 29th Commando Regiment in the Royal Artillery, said veterans’ care was “unacceptable” in Britain and pledged to lay on greater provisions of care for those suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after returning home from war zones.

Mr Mercer said the result of seeing the poor state of mental health provision for colleagues encouraged him to enter politics after leaving the armed forces.

The mental health challenge, with repeated combat tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, or wherever else, has completely ripped apart my circle of friends Veterans minister Johnny Mercer

He won the seat of Plymouth Moor View, the city he was based in as a soldier, in 2015 after knocking on almost every door in the constituency.

“I’ve said this before in the House of Commons, the mental health challenge, with repeated combat tours in theatre, whether it’s in Iraq, Afghanistan, or wherever else, has completely ripped apart my circle of friends,” he told ITV News.

“I have an intimate understanding of the issues. I am not going to pretend for a minute that I have all the answers – I don’t think anybody has got all the answers.

“But I am determined to get mental health care – whether it’s in the veterans’ community or the military community or indeed the NHS – to a place where we can offer those who have served in this country the best mental health care in the world.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson promoted Mr Mercer to the front bench in July in order to set up the Office for Veterans’ Affairs.

The South West politician said the Conservative Party leader was fully behind plans to improve mental health care.

“He came in and spoke about veterans himself – that is the first time a PM has come into office in this country, spoken about veterans very early on and talked about the issue around historical allegations that are such a scar on this country,” said Mr Mercer.

“He is clear that we need to provide the world’s best care to veterans in this country, whether it’s mental health across all these sectors and I’m absolutely determined to deliver it.”

Mr Mercer added: “I’m very clear the nation has a duty to these people. I think the nation has always said it has a duty, (but) it hasn’t actually done it. This Office for Veteran Affairs will see that duty through.”

PA

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