Anthony Muckell, a Royal Marines veteran who served in the First Gulf War, said he started struggling with his mental health years after leaving the military. He felt unsupported by the local authorities and services, he said, and wasn’t sure where his life was headed.
The London native attempted suicide, had several stays in hospital and ended up in prison. It wasn’t until a chance meeting with mental health specialists at a Royal British Legion event, he said, that he got the help he needed and was able to turn things around.
“What hurt most was at one time in my life I was willing to die for the country”, Muckell said, “and the time I needed the help, I was left there on my own apart from my friends.
“I just think things need to change a lot”, he said of support for veterans in the city.
Muckell spoke at the Legion’s headquarters in Southwark as the charity laid out its policy priorities ahead of the London mayoral election this May. The Legion is the largest Armed Forces advocacy group in the country with about 220,000 members.
The policy manifesto, which is available online, calls on the next mayor to support members of the Armed Forces community who are facing unemployment, challenges with their health and wellbeing, and homelessness or unsuitable housing.
It also calls for a renewed commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant, which is a nationwide pledge to treat members of the military fairly. The next mayor should appoint a dedicated advocate for the Armed Forces Covenant within the Greater London Authority, it says.
The manifesto also says greater support is needed in each of London’s 32 boroughs and the City to ensure members of the Armed Forces community get the help they need.
This is the first time the Royal British Legion has published a manifesto for a London mayoral election. The organisation published a similar document in 2017 for the mayoral election in Manchester, as well as for the 2015 and 2019 general elections.
Matthew Seward, the Legion’s assistant director, said with 9,000 regular or reserve military personnel and hundreds of thousands of veterans living in the city, “it is safe to say there is no part of London not connected in some way to our service community”.
He said of the manifesto: “I hope the next mayor and future members of the London Assembly will take it on board and help us to achieve everything that we’ve written about.
“Doing so would make a tremendous difference in the lives of the armed forces community”.
To learn more about the Royal British Legion, visit britishlegion.org.uk.