The former head of the British Army has secured a top level meeting to discuss a 24-hour helpline for battle-scarred troops like tragic Lincoln soldier Nathan Hunt.
Thirty-nine year-old Warrant Officer Nathan Hunt was found hanged at his home in Westbrooke Road on January 2 after concerns were raised for his welfare.
The dad-of-one had served with Prince Harry in Afghanistan in 2008 and was awarded a Mention in Dispatches for his courage in locating roadside bombs during secret missions to ambush the enemy in Helmand Province.
But he faced a battle with his mental health and did not get the care he needed.
Former Army chief General Lord Dannatt told ITV’s Good Morning Britain today, February 6 that his “heart goes out” to Nathan’s parents Derek and Maria and that serving personnel deserve a better deal.
He said: “I had a long conversation yesterday with Armed Forces Minister Tobias Ellwood and he has agreed that we have got to do better and him and I are going to meet to work out exactly what we need to do.
“We are not talking about veterans, people who have left the Army, we are talking about people who are still serving who are certainly not provided for with a 24/7 helpline.
“The time you’re going to suffer is during the small hours, in the evenings and at weekends.”
The Government reportedly refuses to spend £2m on a State-funded helpline because it might only be used by less than 50 people a year.
Help is currently available to troops via the NHS and from charities like Combat Stress.
Military funeral underway of #Lincoln soldier WO Nathan Hunt. WO Hunt served alongside Prince Harry in Afghanistan. Family say he’s a casualty of war, calling for an end to stigma of #PTSD pic.twitter.com/LnWS5TVpKU
— Rod Whiting (@rodwhiting) January 31, 2018
But Nathan’s parents, from Birchwood, say a fully-funded specialist helpline could help prevent further tragedy.
Derek, 66, who served in the Royal Corps of Transport, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I think the system in place at the moment is not good enough to deal with the soldiers that are coming back from these war zones.
“I would like to see a 24/7 helpline that is publicly funded. I have no issues with charities but they do rely on donations.
“What we need is something that is properly publicly funded so that these soldiers have somewhere to go 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
“Nathan saved lives throughout his service – we want him to save lives in his death. If we can achieve that he has not died in vain.”
Hundreds of people paid their respects at Nathan’s funeral service at Lincoln Cathedral.
Maria said she had not realised just how much her son was loved.
She said there was a “tidal wave” of mental health issues affecting many soldiers who joined in the mid-1990s.
She said: “I would say 85 per cent of the British Army are suffering.”
Asked what she thought was stopped people coming forward, Maria said that wrongly there was a stigma attached to mental illness.
She said: “They only reason they don’t come forward is that they are frightened of it blocking their careers.”
An MOD spokesman said: “We take the mental health of our armed forces very seriously and work tirelessly to ensure our troops and veterans receive the care they deserve”.
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— MilitaryNews (@militarynewsuk) February 6, 2018