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29 September 2023 | Case Study | Comment | Military case studies | Article by Simon Ellis

Widow of veteran fights for change after undiagnosed PTSD leads to suicide

Over the last five years Leigh Bowen, Associate in the Military team at Hugh James, has worked with the family of Jonathan “Jonny” Cole.  Jonny Cole, from Ironville, Derbyshire, was a veteran whose undiagnosed PTSD led to his suicide, he was just 39. Earlier this year, an inquest found that NHS and army failings were to blame.

In this blog, Leigh talks about the courageous decision of Teresa, Jonny’s widow, to campaign for change.

Teresa Cole, widow to Jonathan Cole (Jonny) met with Johnny Mercer MP (Minister for Veterans Affairs) to tell her own story and experiences of her late husband during his service with the British Army. She told of his time in Afghanistan 2009 and the major impact that this tour had on Jonny’s mental health. Unfortunately, in Jonny’s case the failings of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) led to a misdiagnosis, insufficient treatment and eventually his death.

Teresa is fighting for change for veterans and their families to try and ensure others do not have to go through the same suffering. Mental health issues can have a massive impact on an individual, but this also extends to the family and loved ones.
As highlighted within the attached news story, it can take a soldier/veteran many years to seek help. This can be for a number of reasons, one of which has been the stigma attached to mental health. It is hoped that the MoD are working hard to extinguish this problem.

Sadly, in Jonny’s case, when he did seek help, it simply was not good enough.

The MOD state that they offer: “mandatory mental health training, a 24-hour helpline, peer to peer support after traumatic incidents and continued access to mental health support after leaving service.”

Unfortunately, this is not the position communicated to us by a wealth of our clients. In our experience it appears that many veterans have been involved in very traumatic incidents whilst on operation tour, but have not received any or any sufficient mental health training, peer to peer support or support in leaving service.

Jonny’s story, sadly, is not an isolated case.

It is positive to hear that the Minister for Veterans Affairs is going to meet different organisations and veterans. This will hopefully be another step towards making the changes that are so desperately needed. Teresa’s fight for justice and change continues.

If you or someone you know has suffered with PTSD or other mental health conditions since leaving the military, please get in touch with our specialist military solicitors for an informal chat.

Author bio

Simon Ellis


Simon Ellis is a Partner with Hugh James and has worked with the firm for more than 25 years, having trained and qualified here. Simon heads up the Military Department, advising and assisting current and former military personnel with various health conditions and injuries. He specialises in claims such as hearing loss, non-freezing cold injuries, compartment syndrome and military injury cases. He is often asked to advise on more unusual claims in the military context.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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