Clydebank’s MP has called on the UK government to give more support to reservists returning home from serving their country.
Gemma Doyle MP, who is also the shadow minister for defence personnel, welfare and veterans in the Labour opposition, raised the issue of reservists’ mental health following the publication of a report by the British Journal of Psychiatry. It found the way reservists are used by the military places additional pressures on the servicemen and women compared to the regular forces, as well as leaving them without the same support network.
The report authors stated: “They [reservists] reported higher exposure to traumatic experiences, lower unit cohesion, more problems adjusting to homecoming and lower marital satisfaction… Reservists often deploy as individuals with units of regular personnel and in many cases they will not have prior knowledge of many, or any, of their comrades.
“Owing to the nature of deployment, reservists may be more likely than regular forces to undertake work in theatre for which they have not been specifically trained or not experienced in their civilian employment. They also have the additional pressures of leaving civilian life behind, including their work colleagues, families and friends – who may have little understanding of what the reservist could face while away.”
Speaking at a defence questions session, West Dunbartonshire MP Gemma Doyle said: “Recent announcements make it clear that the Government intend to rely more heavily on reservists in the coming years. An effective strategy is needed not only for our current soldiers, but for our former troops too.
She then asked: “Will the minister say whether the Ministry Of Defence intends to give greater importance to reservists’ mental health and what measures he will put in place to analyse the reasons for the disparity and to improve their mental health?”
Defence Minister Andrew Robathan, who served in the British Army for 15 years before entering politics, acknowledged the problem of providing adequate support to reservists. The former Coldstream Guards officer told MPs: “It is more difficult to keep tabs on reservists because they go out of the military environment back to their homes and jobs.
“They also do not have the cocoon of having their comrades around them. [But] We are taking action. Professor Simon Wessely at the King’s Centre for Military Health Research is carrying out an in-depth study into the mental health problems that people encounter, particularly focusing on reservists.”