Widow of Army veteran who took his own life has first 'positive' face-to-face meeting with minister

A veteran’s widow spoke of a “positive” meeting with a minister on Tuesday after 14 months of campaigning for better support for those suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Jo Jukes lived with a war veteran husband suffering from worsening PTSD and acute depression - while desperately seeking help for him.

Lance Corporal Dave Jukes took his own life in October 2018 behind the family's home in Birmingham.

Ms Jukes has now met with veterans' minister Johnny Mercer and told ITV News she came out “with a really good feeling”.

Mr Mercer first planned to meet Ms Jukes after he watched an ITV News report about her campaign.

“[He was] genuinely interested in how to make things better for the bereaved families, has made things better for veterans... yeah I felt it was really positive,” she said

“He said that he reads every single suicide and what has happened.

"He also wants all the families to kind of reach out and talk to him.

“He's open to talking to people, learning what's gone on so that he understands more about what's actually gone on rather than just what's written on a piece of paper.

“I think just being heard is really important for most families that have been bereaved.”

Dave Jukes served in the British Armed Forces for more than 25 years. Credit: Family handout

At her husband’s inquest, Coroner Emma Brown ruled LCpl Jukes took his own life through PTSD-related suicide, and that "missed opportunities" could have led to it.

This was recorded as the first military armed forces veteran suicide.

LCpl Jukes served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Northern Ireland, but struggled with PTSD after returning back to the UK.

Ms Jukes, however, says her efforts are about all the other victims and sufferers as well.

“As time goes on it becomes less about me and Dave and even though he's the person that I originally started it for and because of,” she told ITV News.

“It's not just him, it's for all the people that served in all their services and all the families that are supporting them and those who are left behind.

“I think, well I hope, that Dave would be proud of what I've done and I hope that he'd be pleased that everyone kind of knows his name now.”

Almost 100 other veterans have taken their own lives since LCpl Jukes died.

Johnny Mercer said he is 'determined' to do all he can to make veterans' mental health support more readily available. Credit: PA

In a statement released after his meeting with Ms Jukes, Mr Mercer said he wanted to "extend my sympathies to Jo and her family for the tragic loss of her husband, Lance Corporal David Jukes.

“I had the pleasure of meeting Jo today, where we discussed the work currently ongoing across government to monitor and better understand suicides among veterans.

“There is a range of mental health support available and I am determined to do all I can to make sure these measures are made more accessible and properly signposted."

SJ (Stephen James) is the co-founder of All Call Signs, a charity run by veterans that helps and supports anyone suffering out of the armed forces and actively reaches out to those going through hard times.

“I think Mr Mercer's background - coming from an armed forces background - he feels this really just as deeply as we do and is really kind of passionate about seeing a change,” he said.

“At the moment the numbers that we're seeing are you know quite scary and we need to act now if we're going to see those numbers be reduced. He certainly seems to understand that.

“I hope that the information we were able to pass on today is used and put to good use so that we can start to see policy changes and things happen quickly rather than retrospectively after the fact.”

What to do if you or someone you know needs help:

  • If you are in distress or need some support, the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day on 116 123 or through their website.

  • Veterans' mental health charity Combat Stress is available 24 hours a day on 0800 138 1619 for veterans and their families, 0800 323 444 for serving personnel and their families, via text on 07537 404719, or through their website.

  • Veterans' charity SSAFA is available on 0800 731 4880 or through their website.

  • The Government's Veterans' Gateway offers advice and help for veterans seeking support and can be contacted on 0800 802 1212 or through the website.

  • Mind offers a helpline on 0300 123 3393 from 9am to 6pm.