Johnny Mercer, Minister for Defence People and Veterans, speaks to podcast host Harry Bucknall in a new episode of General Talk.
The wide-ranging interview covers the rights of Commonwealth veterans to residency after they’ve served; the ‘egregious’ experiences of servicemen and women at the hands of the Historic Investigations Unit; and the ‘huge resistance’ to talking about suicide, Mercer admits he finds politics a challenge and resolves “I’ll keep going until we do our duty by our people or someone comes along and does it better.”
On the rights of Commonwealth veterans to residency, the minster underlines his objective is to ensure that people who have served this country ‘can absolutely live here’, describing this as ‘a low bar.’ Mercer reveals that he is hopeful a government consultation will happen in the next few weeks on the topic of Commonwealth veterans’ residency rights and invites podcast listeners to engage with this.
Mercer does not shy away from discussing suicide, which he explains is the biggest killer of men under 44; and in the case of Armed Forces personnel and veterans not only a tragedy for the family but also for the institution:
“Clear care pathways are key and there is help out there; we need to make it easier for people to access help and understand the care pathways. People shy away from this subject and that’s a shame. Clearly it’s an awful, very dark and lonely experience but we have to engage with it.
“The reality of the data is that you are less likely to take your life if you have served than if you’re a civilian. It is not an epidemic like it is in the US – where 22 veterans a day commit suicide – it is simply not true that there’s an epidemic of veterans’ suicide in the UK. It’s a challenge – we are making progress but clearly we have more to do.”
The NHS has recently launched Op Courage, which is designed for veterans suffering with mental ill health and provides a single route for accessing specialist care. Mercer says veterans will be properly looked after and will be offered a variety of services from talking therapy through to more “high intensity” services.
To listen to the podcast, visit: https://audioboom.com/posts/7834396-episode-9-johnny-mercer