Veteran Suicide Study: Northumbria University hears from bereaved families to help improve support

The widow of military veteran, Lance Corporal David Jukes, has told ITV News Tyne Tees "he was angry at not being understood" before taking his own life.

Jo Jukes, who attended the first of several workshops on veteran suicide run by Northumbria University's Northern Hub for Veterans and Military Families Research, said leading up to his suicide, her husband struggled with a lack of support over his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

She said: "He was angry at not being understood by some of the people that he was trying to get help from. He was angry that he was told that disassociation didn’t exist and that he was making it up to justify his actions and his words.

"He was just angry at everyone and everything and angry at life and I think he was tired. He was tired of struggling with this for so long and not actually getting anywhere."

In October 2018, David Jukes realised he was a danger to himself and his family and took his own life in the family's back garden.

Jo, who now runs the organisation, For the Fallen, that helps support bereaved families of veterans, said there was very little support for her family following his death too, adding: "If you imagine someone coming into your home and chucking a grenade in there and just walking away and I think everything in your life is turned upside down.

"You know, you’re left with the total devastation of not only someone deciding to take their own life, but also, how do you even plan a funeral? How do you even deal with all of these emotions that come from it, as well as all the implications in your life that will come from this event?"

Jo is one of dozens of families taking part in a special study by Northumbria University, looking into how multiple authorities like the government, NHS, and charities can work together to improve a range of support services for veterans who are struggling with their mental health.

Professor Matt Kiernan said he hopes the study can help improve the services and prevent further suicides, by giving veterans more holistic support.

He said: "When they are in a bad place, you know, it's not just about therapy and treatment, it's about everything else that's going on in their life at that time, and sometimes they're not ready for therapy but they still need looking after and so today's looking at how we can do that based on what we've learned so far."

The MoD published a document last year, which stated 284 suicides occurred among serving UK armed forces personnel between 2001-2020.

Currently, there are no such figures collected to show how many veterans have taken their own lives. However, the government last year announced a new method for recording veteran suicide and the first of the statistics are expected to be published in 2023.

Jo Jukes, who won a landmark case to have David’s death recorded as a death caused by service, said she hopes this new research by Northumbria University will help prevent other families going through what she has been through.

She said: "I think from the minute that Dave died, what I really wanted was to be able to reach out to other families and I just couldn’t make contact with any other families, so I didn’t want any other families to experience what we experienced while he was living and after he died, so I’m hoping that even if we can change something to do with that going forward, and prevent future deaths, that’s ultimately what we’re all here for."