A Government minister has called on the whole country to support military veterans struggling to come to terms with their own experiences following recent events in Afghanistan.
For veterans, the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the evacuation of Kabul will have raised difficult issues about their service and sacrifice during the intensive combat operations in Afghanistan.
They (veterans) should be proud of what they did on their tour, what they did was worth it and no one can ever take that success away from them. And they should hold their heads high. James Heappey MP, Minister for the Armed Forces
Speaking to the BBC, Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey said: “I am intensely fearful for what that means to the veteran community for their mental health. There have been far too many who have taken their lives as a consequence of their service in Afghanistan, and many who are still struggling. This more than any other time is a time where us as a Government to support the military charities that support our veterans, but also for the nation to support those charities because this… is how we get through a difficult time like this.
“They (veterans) should be proud of what they did on their tour, what they did was worth it and no one can ever take that success away from them. And they should hold their heads high.
“We can leave no stone unturned in making sure that we support our veterans. And we need to reassure them their service was worthwhile and we need to put an arm around them as a nation through our commitments, through charities and through our regimental associations.”
Mr Heappey, a former Army officer who served in Afghanistan in 2009, said: “This is something that ministers in the MOD who served in Afghanistan feel personally responsible for and that is why we have a real sense of mission to support those who served in the most extraordinary circumstances.”
Soldiers who deployed on Operation Pitting - the evacuation of Kabul - are receiving a comprehensive package of post- operational stress management. The programme is designed around soldiers supporting each other to talk about their shared experiences, with support from mental health professionals.
Information on mental health support available to veterans can be found at https://www.army.mod.uk/ people/join-well/managing-stress/ask-for-help.