Families of mental health soldiers feel 'let down' by armed forces

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Paul Davies

Families of soldiers who have taken their own lives are calling on the armed forces to do more to help personnel struggling with mental health.

Speaking to ITV News, a group of these bereaved families say they feel let down by the armed forces' apparent lack of action.

In 2018 alone, ITV News understands, there have been 71 suicides among serving or former members of the military.

These military families have raised their concerns with ITV News.

One of the latest deaths was Stewart Kingdom, a veteran army medic who had served in the Falklands and Iraq.

He took his own life three days after Armistice Day.

Relatives of three soldiers who took their own lives have now raised their concerns with ITV News, arguing that the system of care for personnel is broken.

Corporal Mathew Shillito died in October.

One of those was Corporal Mathew Shillito, 31, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

He took his own life in October.

Speaking of the mental health care available to soldiers, his father, David, said: "It's just not there.

"There is plenty of help for these guys coming back with a physical injury but these lads that are coming back with mental problems, there is nothing there for them."

Iraq and Afghanistan veterans appear particularly vulnerable.

The Ministry of Defence says it is now spending £22 million a year on mental health, including a 24-hour helpline.

But these families say that in reality the help remains out of reach for many.

They are particularly annoyed with comments made earlier this month by Britain's most senior solider, General Sir Nicholas Carter, who questioned the link between military service and PTSD.

Tracey Shillito, Mathew's mother, described the comments as "depressing".

"They have had my son's better life. They have had the years I am missing and will miss forever now," she said.

General Sir Nicholas Carter questioned the link between service and PTSD.

The general's comments were designed to reassure potential recruits and future employers that a military career does not usually damage service men and women.

But these families are far from convinced.

Derek Hunt, whose warrant officer son Nathan took his own life after service in Afghanistan, is one of those critical of the comments.

"Please do not put out your generic letter of 'we take the welfare of our armed forces seriously', because every time something goes out on TV that is the generic wording that comes out," he said.

"If they did, we wouldn't be sat here."

In the new year, the MOD will be conducting a detailed study into the death of personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, trying to establish why this group is particularly vulnerable to premature death and suicide.

The funeral car of veteran Stewart Kingdom.