Defence Secretary launches partnership on mental health and wellbeing with the Royal Foundation

9 Oct 2017 01:20 PM

Transcript of Sir Michael Fallon's speech given yesterday at the launch of a partnership between the MOD and the Royal Foundation on mental health.

I’m delighted to be here. Warfare’s often seen in terms of battles of the body.

Today we recognise it’s also about battles of the mind. For those suffering from mental illness the damage trauma inflicts is no less real for being invisible, while the need to address mental, as well as physical shocks, is no less pressing.

It’s not simply that the operational effectiveness of our forces depends on them being healthy, outside and in.

We have a duty of care to all who lay their lives on the line and a moral obligation to all who support them.

Now I think it’s true to say that whether families or civilian staff, we’re better at treating mental trauma than we used to be.

A century ago, in the First World War, an anonymous medical superintendent at one military hospital in York advised a shell shocked patient “to face his illness in a manly way”.

Today after 21st century conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq where a lack of safe zones was compounded by the constant threat of roadside IEDs, we no longer expect people to simply “man up”, instead we offer expert help through Defence Medical Services for current personnel and through the NHS for veterans, families and civilians. But with some 2.6 million veterans in the UK many at increased risk of developing mental illness, complacency is not an option.

Nor can our sole focus be on the frontline

Promoting Mental Health Awareness

So part of the reason we’re here today is to promote mental health awareness.

No current or ex-member of our Armed Forces family should have to keep quiet about their illness for fear of being thought a failure.

And here I’d like to pay particular tribute to the work of HRH Prince Harry.

As a former serviceman, few understand these matters better.

He has set an inspirational example in speaking about the challenges he has faced.

And having used the Invictus Games to draw attention to the physical effects of war he’s now tackling the taboo of mental illness head on.

And we look forward to hearing from him in a moment.

Our strategy to address mental health issues, is about more than just raising awareness, important though that is.

Prevention

It’s also about prevention.

Mental health conditions are treatable but we have to be better at spotting the signs

Better directing people to the right treatment and doing more to help those suffering from everyday stresses and strains to deal with the challenges they face.

Detection

Second our plans are about better detection.

And today’s Royal Foundation Partnership will give individuals the means to identify what’s wrong earlier on and our leaders the practical tools they need to support their colleagues.

Treatment

Finally, it’s about better treatment. We’re focused on putting proper treatment in place.

Earlier this year the Prime Minister introduced a package of reforms to improve mental health support throughout a person’s life.

Our Defence People Mental Health and Well-being Strategy builds on those plans for our Whole Force utilising the best evidence based practice and joining the dots between the National Health Service, devolved administrations, key service charities, our own Defence Medical Services and academia to provide a more seamless service.

Our new Veterans board announced last week will now co-ordinate all veterans-related work right across government and give this work today much needed focus.

Conclusion

So let me conclude, before welcoming His Royal Highness by saying that in a 24-hour society, of constant communication, intensifying threats and multiplying daily pressures it’s never been more vital for members of the military to keep mind, body and soul together.

But by joining forces with them, we can shine the spotlight on these hidden scars of mental illness.

We can help change the environment long-term.

We can help combat outdated attitudes and create a culture of well-being, so no member of our Armed Forces Family ever has to suffer in silence again.

Would you please welcome His Royal Highness.