Veterans In Crisis campaign leads to media award nomination

The investigations team from the Lancashire Post and its sister titles across JPIMedia is up for an award this evening.

By Michael Holmes
Tuesday, 12th November 2019, 3:18 pm
The Veterans In Crisis logo (Picture: JPIMedia)
The Veterans In Crisis logo (Picture: JPIMedia)

The team’s Veterans In Crisis campaign, which started last July to highlight a lack of government support for British ex-service personnel experiencing PTSD, anxiety, and depression, has been shortlisted for the Publication category in the Bupa Mind Media Awards 2019.

"The 2019 shortlist have been chosen from hundreds of entries from across the media spectrum," Mind said.

"To make the shortlist, entries must have relevant mental health content, challenge perceptions of mental health, be well-crafted and responsibly produced, be safe for intended audiences and demonstrate their reach and impact."

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Military suicides: Is there a hidden epidemic?

"Throughout the investigation, veterans open up to the JPIMedia Investigations team about their mental health and families share being left devastated by suicide.

"It brings to light stalled NHS suicide prevention plans and Government rows about whether to monitor suicide rates among veterans, with campaigners arguing that these figures are vital in building treatment and support services."

The campaign led to a promise from Prime Minister Boris Johnson that a new government office would "take responsibility for the full gamut of veterans' civilian lives", including mental and physical health, employment, and education.

The move came after the Ministry of Defence detailed a substantial action plan to better understand suicides among veterans in the wake of JPIMedia's investigation.

"The brave men and women who serve in our military truly represent the pinnacle of British character," Mr Johnson added.

The government was previously accused of turning a blind eye to the issue of veteran suicides, with this newspaper revealing how the UK does not monitor the number of ex-service personnel taking their own lives, unlike allies such as the USA, Canada, and Australia.

The Ministry of Defence said a study into deaths of veterans who served between 2001 and 2014 will be expanded to include more recent service leavers.

A further study will look at risk factors in the year leading up to veterans’ suicides, while the 2021 census will collect data on service history for the first time to build a clear picture of the UK’s veteran population.

Other actions will include asking veterans for permission to contact them about the support available to them, better monitoring of veterans accessing Universal Credit, and the appointment of the first Armed Forces Mental Health and Wellbeing Champion, who is Warrant Officer Glenn Haughton OBE, a Northern Ireland, Iraq, and Afghanistan veteran.

Robert McCartney, from the charity Beyond The Battlefield, said the Veterans in Crisis campaign could take “huge credit” for the developments. “Nothing was happening on this issue before the JPIMedia series shone a spotlight on them,” he said.

Wyre MP Ben Wallace, who was named the new Defence Secretary in Mr Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle, said: “People join our armed forces prepared to give their lives in defence of their country.

“In return, government and society owe them a debt long after their service is finished. As a veteran myself, I know the struggles that some people face.”

Lancashire veteran Sgt Rick Clement, who was seriously injured after being maimed by a Taliban bomb in Afghanistan in 2010, had called on the government to do more to help veterans as part of the campaign, and welcomed Mr Johnson's pledge to support veterans.

He said in the summer: “It’s obviously a step in the right direction and I will be interested to see exactly what the Office does. It’s good to see the new Prime Minister has come in and straight away made a big decision.”

The awards ceremony, in London, will be streamed live on Mind's website from 7pm today (click here). It will be hosted by BBC Radio One's Greg James.