CAMPAIGNS: Mental health body lobbies for UK troops - Lobbying

Client: Mental Health Foundation PR Team: In-house Campaign: Returning soldiers' mental health Timescale: Ongoing from January 2003 Budget: in-house resources

The Mental Health Foundation wanted to raise awareness of the lack of mental health services available to soldiers returning from the war in Iraq. Up to 20 per cent of soldiers returning from conflict can develop mental health problems, including post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to the charity.

Objectives

To reveal the lack of preparatory work by the Department of Health and the Ministry of Defence for the estimated 10,000 returning troops that could develop mental health problems. To raise awareness of PTSD and highlight the strain NHS services are under.

Strategy and Plan

As the troop build-up reached its final stage, a letter was sent to the DoH, followed up by parliamentary questions tabled on 27 February, which sought to expose the government's 'lack of preparedness'.

Conservative MP Tim Loughton posed questions to the Secretary of State for Health Jacqui Smith.

Working with fellow charity Combat Stress, which provides care for ex-servicemen, the charity mounted a PR campaign to raise the issue in the media. Press releases and case studies were sent out, as well as briefings, and TV cameras were allowed into Combat Stress homes.

One crucial goal was to highlight the need for early diagnosis, and a key demand was better talking therapies through the NHS. The charity positioned the Government and MoD's inaction against comprehensive service provision in the US.

The charity targeted The Daily Telegraph to reach opinion-formers, local radio and local papers with consumer messages and a fact sheet, and also the Big Issue as many homeless people are ex-soldiers. To reach professionals working in social care, the charity focused on The Guardian.

Measurement and Evaluation

Smith's confirmation that there were no financial provisions in place for additional specialist mental health services led to a wave of publicity.

Coverage was spread across broadsheet, tabloid and broadcast outlets with features in The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph, along with broadcast coverage including Channel 4 News and Radio 4.

Results

On 7 May the MoD announced it was to launch a new research project for early diagnosis. As mental health services in the NHS are currently undergoing wide change, the charity hopes the work it has done will feed into the reforms.

A case brought by ex-servicemen claiming medical negligence against the Government was lost recently, but ministers' role in passing responsibility to the NHS was highlighted. The case saw the charity's chief executive Dr Andrew McCulloch on Channel 4 News, highlighting how ill-equipped mental health services are.

Guardian Society deputy editor Alison Benjamin praised the campaign: 'They provided comprehensive information and set the facts out clearly, as well as access to people for interviews.'

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in