A helpline to give round the clock support to troops suffering from mental health problems has been launched weeks after a Lincoln soldier took his own life.
Royal Engineer Nathan Hunt, who had served in a desert reconnaissance unit with Prince Harry in Afghanistan, where he won a gallantry award, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and hanged himself on New Year’s Day.
Following his death, his parents have started campaigning to ensure troops are given more support for mental health whenever they need it.
And now defence secretary Gavin Williamson has announced an extra £20 million in funding to pay for the hotline and other new support services over the next decade.
The hotline went live at 12noon today, Sunday February 25,
It follows calls by campaigners, including Lord Dannatt, former head of the British Army, for more help for struggling soldiers.
Mr Williamson said it was “simply unacceptable” that troops should suffer in silence.
He told the Mail on Sunday: “It is our duty to ensure we do all we can for our world-class personnel.
“I will be working personally with the service chiefs to make sure there isn’t a single person in the Armed Forces who doesn’t know where to turn in times of trouble.”
Warrant Officer Class 2 Nathan Hunt, 39, hung himself after suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, an inquest opening held in Lincoln heard.
The former North Kesteven School pupil had joined the Royal Engineers before he turned 16 and was due to retire from the army this September.
Hundreds turned out to remember him at a military funeral at Lincoln Cathedral on January 31.
Nathan Hunt’s mother, Maria Hunt, 64, told the newspaper she was “thrilled to bits” that the helpline was being set up.
“I am so glad that something good has come out of Nathan’s death,” she added.
The dad-of-one loved adventure and served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland and Iraq, as well as serving three or four tours of Afghanistan.
He was decorated for his bravery overseas and saved many lives during his time in the forces.
His widow Lainey Hunt, 41, said of the launch of the hotline: “This is brilliant news. Soldiers need someone to talk to. A lot of lads are put off talking to doctors and counsellors face-to-face, so the helpline will be very useful.”
The helpline will be funded by the Ministry of Defence and run with the charity Combat Stress.
Lord Dannatt said the helpline was a “massive improvement” in support for troops.
The Military Mental Health Helpline can be called on 0800 323 4444.