Publish date: 17 May 2021
My name is Chris Whittle and I am a military veteran. I am proactively involved with several military veteran support groups - St Helens Veterans Welfare Hub, Warrington Wolves Veterans, and Everton/ Knowsley Veterans.
Friday 21 to Sunday 23 May this year, marks the 39th anniversary of the British retaking the Falklands and I’d like to ask you to support an event we are organising alongside the rugby community to support mental health awareness and suicide prevention.
Two veterans share their experiences of the Falklands War and their lives since as part of this short BBC video and this really highlights how events such as the Falklands War impact our serving personnel.
Boots on the Ground project
Last year we set up a project called ‘Boots on the Ground’ as a direct result of veterans not being able to attend memorial services on Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day in 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Instead of attending in person, we placed military boots at the nearest Cenotaphs, alongside the work of the veteran’s groups which gained widespread press and social media coverage. The project received positive feedback and we’d like to build on this.
Working with the rugby community
This year the veterans groups decided to expand the ‘Boots on the Ground’ further to raise awareness for suicide prevention for veterans and serving military personnel.
Sadly, during the 20-year period 2001-2020, 284 suicides occurred among UK regular armed forces personnel: 267 among males, and 17 among females (these figures are of serving personnel, the data for suicide in veterans is unknown.)
Due to our continued collaboration with local rugby teams it was important to raise awareness of suicide and suicide prevention issues among rugby players and communities (professional, amateur, and supporters) by placing, alongside the military boots, rugby boots.
Phil Veivers, former rugby league player and head coach said, “Highlighting the awareness of suicide prevention amongst veterans and sports communities is vitally important. Placing both military and rugby boots together shows how anyone can be affected by suicide and that we can work together to reduce the number of people (800,000) taking their own lives all around the world every year”.
Friday 21 to Sunday 23 May 2021 we will mark the anniversary with a 60 mile walk – the same distance troops covered from the landing to Stanley in the Falklands. I am intending to do the walk carrying the same full pack I carried on the original journey.
On consecutive days to cover over 60 miles, we will walk around Emerald Headingley Stadium (Leeds Rhino’s) and the Halliwell Jones Stadium (Warrington Wolves) and a venue in St Helens to be arranged.
At the beginning of the walks, we will place a pair of military boots and rugby boots at the memorials at each stadium. Then at the end of each walk we will place the military and rugby boots at the nearest Cenotaph.
How can you help?
Donate military boots
We need more military boots and would be grateful for any military boots that you may be able to donate. They may be used for this event or for other events throughout the year. Any size, shape or condition will be much appreciated. We can collect (maintaining social distance).
Join our walks
If you would like to take part in some/all of the walks around the outside of the rugby stadiums, let us know. You would need to be responsible for your own health and level of fitness. Because of current restrictions there are limits to the numbers who can be involved but we would be grateful for your support.
If you would like to get involved or can donate military boots, please contact me via email to: Christopher.Whittle@nwbh.nhs.uk.
Make a donation to State of Mind
We are supporting the fundraising efforts of State of Mind and would welcome donations to: www.justgiving.com/campaign/Stateofmind40120challenge
Lastly, I would like to say thank you to Warrington Wolves, Leeds Rhino’s Foundations and the State of Mind Sports Charity, North West Boroughs Healthcare, St Helens and Knowsley Councils for their support with this initiativ
Local Veteran’s hubs