News Letter-JPI veterans suicide campaign recognised at national awards event

Army veteran Chris Bennett, from Belfast, told of his mental health struggles in the campaign
Army veteran Chris Bennett, from Belfast, told of his mental health struggles in the campaign
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A News Letter-JPI Investigations campaign which saw government accused of turning a blind eye to an epidemic of veteran suicides has been recognised with a national award.

The Press Gazette reported that journalists from across the JPI group won ‘Publication of the Year’ in Bupa and Mind’s Mental Health Awards, for their 2018 Veterans in Crisis campaign.

Tim Robinson, group content development director at JPI Media, accepts the award on behalf of the News Letter and JPI Investigations team at the  Bupa and Mind Mental Health Awards

Tim Robinson, group content development director at JPI Media, accepts the award on behalf of the News Letter and JPI Investigations team at the Bupa and Mind Mental Health Awards

Mental health charity Mind said the “brilliant” investigation highlighted a “lack of government support for British ex-service personnel experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression”.

“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 investigation found that the UK does not monitor the apparently rising number of veteran suicides, unlike the USA, Canada and Australia.

A series of hard-hitting articles and personal testimonies from veterans and their families ran in titles including The i, the News (Portsmouth), The Scotsman, the News Letter, the Blackpool Gazette and The Yorkshire Post throughout 2018 and 2019.

The government subsequently announced a raft of improved support measures and a major study into veteran suicides, with charities crediting JPI Media for prompting the changes.

Tim Robinson, group content development director at JPI Media, said the award was a vindication of the all the hard work by the team.

“Mental health issues among military veterans are not given the attention they deserve and the hidden epidemic of suicides is a national scandal which demands to be recognised and tackled,” he said. “It’s now over to the government to respond with commitment and action for ex-service personnel.”

Dr Walter Busuttil, medical director at UK veterans mental health charity, Combat Stress, played a key role in the series.

“I would like to congratulate JPI Media Investigations on their well-deserved Mind Media Award,” he said. “Their investigation last year helped to convince the government of the urgent need to launch a major study into veteran suicides. With this information, Combat Stress and other organisations will be better placed to help veterans and do all we can to prevent them taking their own lives.”

Annemarie Hastings, chief executive of Newtownards veterans charity Beyond the Battlefield, echoed his thoughts.

“The News Letter and JPI Media Veterans In Crisis campaign raised amazing public awareness across many communities, families and publics as to the real problems that veterans present with,” she said. “We needed the real and honest stories to be told at last, the News Letter and JPI certainly achieved that.”

BBC Radio One DJ Greg James hosted the ceremony at London’s Southbank Centre, which saw also saw awards presented to actor David Harewood, ITV’s Lorraine Kelly, Channel 4 News, BBC Radio 4 and BBC Arabic.