Mental Health

Mental Health Awareness: Defence Minister Says Brother's Death Changed His Perspective

MP Tobias Ellwood says he would have benefitted from support after his brother died in the Bali bombings.

Warning: some viewers may find this interview upsetting.

Defence minister Tobias Ellwood is calling for everyone in the Armed Forces to open up about their experiences, as Mental Health Awareness Week gets underway.

The Bournemouth East MP was formerly a captain in the Royal Green Jackets, and knows intimately the effect trauma can have on the mind.

When his brother Jonathan was killed in the Bali bombings in 2002, he went to look for him.

He says the culture at the time meant he bottled everything up, but in hindsight, he says he would have benefitted from some form of support in the aftermath.

"I had to go through 200 bodies one by one in order to find my brother.

"All the bodies were charred, it was a very grim experience and eventually I found him and because I’d taken his medical records with me we were able to do a DNA confirmation and confirm that was my brother."

Seventeen years on, Mr Ellwood believes the culture around seeking help has changed.

With one in three people expected to experience mental health issues each year, the MP says it is vital the armed forces adopt a policy of openness too.

"This is about saying your body isn’t about the physical but mental as well.

"You are a highly tuned athlete – and just like athletes on the track they make sure their mind is ok if you’ve got an issue, it’s ok to say you’re not ok."

The Defence Secretary, Penny Mordaunt, has announced funding towards mental wellbeing for ex-service personnel, and support for veteran-led groups looking for funding.

The Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt has announced up to £9m will be allocated to mental health and wellbeing activities for ex service personnel, and support will be given to veteran-led groups looking for funding.

But those who deliver mental health support say demand for assistance is rising.

Veterans charity Combat Stress claims it receives nearly 2,000 new referrals every year.

Tonight, Prince Charles is set to launch a £10m appeal to help fund their work.

Charities say more flexible and efficient support is what personnel and veterans need.