AN ex-soldier will undertake a gruelling charity challenge to raise funds and awareness for veteran mental health.

Duncan Milne, 32,from Cleckheaton served in the British Army and completed two front line tours of Iraq and Afghanistan.

He joined the army straight out of school at 16 and was serving in Iraq at 18 and Afghanistan at 21.

He then moved into the private security industry, but has now settled down into civilian life and works for Yorkshire Building Society.

His experience is one which he carries with him every day and he is now determined to make a difference and help those who are struggling.

“Ever since leaving the army I have felt like my life was missing something and I have spent a lot of time thinking about how I can offer more.When serving in the army, my unit lost seven men in Iraq and Afghanistan which was horrendous, but to an extent understandable.

“Since leaving the army I am now part of a veteran community where we have more deaths to veterans due to suicide than those killed in some of these conflicts, which is impossible to understand and is heartbreaking.”

He added: “In the military community there is a hidden epidemic with mental health of serving and ex-serving personnel, and it is estimated that one ex-service person commits suicide every seven days and in 2019 there were close to 100 deaths.

“Nearly 30 per cent of veterans are put off from visiting mental health services on the grounds that they believe civilian services will not understand their needs.

“Serious funding issues are also hindering the provision of care to veterans. For some time now I have almost become accustomed to hearing stories about how someone struggling with their mental health has taken their own life or has turned to drink, is hiding away and isolating themselves, or has ended up homeless as they are unable to hold down a job. In most of these scenarios they have been struggling to say something and have been keeping that they are struggling with their mental health to themselves.

“The stats are telling with 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime.Suicide is currently the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the western world.”

Duncan’s aim is now to try and complete several challenging events and activities on in aid of various mental health charities. He will kick it off by raising funds for two military mental health charities by climbing Mount Elberus in Russia, with other veterans in July.

“I would like my effort to summit Europe’s highest mountain to go a long way in helping those who are worse off and in need, even if it is to help with financial strain, get a homeless veteran off the streets, or to prevent any more suicides.

"I will be doing this alongside fellow veterans and my friend Sam Deen who has had his own horrific experiences both while serving in the Marines and in his transition back to civilian life, infamously he is known as ‘Marine E’.”

The two funds he will be raising money for are Rock2Recovery and EXFORplus.

Duncan, who is looking for sponsorship for his challenge, has set a target of £2,000 on his GoFundMe page, which can be viewed by clicking here