2024 FiMT Research Centre Award Winners

We were pleased to announce the winners of our Forces in Mind Trust Research Centre (FiMT RC) Awards 2024 at our conference on 13th May 2024. These awards celebrate exceptional researchers working within the Armed Forces Community research field and devoting their careers to producing impactful and groundbreaking research and generating evidence for the benefit of UK ex-Service personnel and their families.

The 2024 conference followed the theme 'Research with impact for ex-Service personnel and their families'. The work and careers of this year's winners are exemplars of this, demonstrating a clear impact on progressing practice and policy, and furthering understanding, to benefit UK Veterans and their families. 

Thank you to everyone who submitted a nomination. We were lucky to choose from a brilliant group of finalists and are grateful to the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) Executive Team for selecting the winners. The awards were presented on 13th May 2024 at Bush House in London by Jim Macleod CB CVO, Chair of the FiMT Board.

Lifetime Achievement Award.

The FiMT Research Centre Lifetime Achievement Award recognises an individual who is a leader in their field and has dedicated their exceptional research career to generating evidence and knowledge which has influenced policy to benefit UK ex-Service personnel and their families. The winner of this award for 2024 is Professor Walter Busuttil.

Ruth Harris, Co-Director of the FiMT Research Centre said “Professor Busuttil has had an exceptional career to date and has played a pivotal role in advancing research involving UK Veterans and developing clinical mental health services for the ex-Service personnel community. In acknowledgement of his contribution to the sector, we are honoured to have presented him with this award.”

Professor Walter Busuttil is a Consultant Psychiatrist and Director of Research at Combat Stress, the UK’s leading charity for ex-Service personnel’ mental health, and a Visiting Professor at the King’s Centre for Military Health Research (KCMHR) at King’s College London. He has had a distinguished career, spanning several decades, including 16 years of Service in the RAF. During the first Gulf War, he played a pivotal role in establishing rehabilitation services for combatants and contributed to the rehabilitation of British Prisoners of War and hostages released from Beirut, with his work from this period published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. Following this he worked for a decade with individuals living with Post-traumatic stress and published studies exploring effective treatments for Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD).

Professor Busuttil has made significant professional contributions to advancing research and developing clinical services for UK ex-Service personnel and their families. Joining Combat Stress as Medical Director from 2007-2020, Professor Busuttil spearheaded the development of cutting-edge bespoke clinical services for ex-Service personnel across the UK. He has also worked to develop evidence-led interventions in response to ex-Service personnel' clinical needs and evaluate their efficacy, contributing the resulting findings to the growing evidence base that forms the basis of our current ex-Service personnel's Mental Health Services. He also founded the Combat Stress Research Centre which has significantly advanced understanding of UK ex-Service personnel's mental health, developed new groundbreaking interventions, and produced over 150 published articles.

Professor Walter Busuttil, said: “I don’t see this award as just for me, but rather for all of us who have worked diligently for the betterment of the mental health of current and former Service personnel. Together we have come so far in the past twenty years, from huge advancements in treatment, to collaboration across the sector, to breaking down barriers and stigma preventing those who need it from receiving help. This award really is testament to that. Combat Stress continues to be a great leader in driving, providing and informing gold-standard mental health treatment, research and support for Veterans, both in the UK and internationally. I couldn’t be prouder.”

To learn more about Professor Busuttil's exceptional career and his perspective on current issues impacting UK ex-Service personnel and their families, you can read his previous Meet the Expert interview here

Research Excellence Award.

The Research Excellence award recognises an individual who has produced a piece of high-quality and innovative research involving UK ex-Service personnel and/or their families over the last year. This year we are pleased to announce that the award was presented to Dr Cathryn Rodway for her work on a research project exploring suicidality in the UK ex-Service personnel community. The award was kindly accepted on Dr Rodway’s behalf at the 2024 conference by co-author, Dr Jodie Westhead.

Ruth Harris, Co-Director of the FiMT Research Centre said “Dr Rodway’s high-quality work has made a valuable contribution to understanding suicidality in the UK Veteran population, and how practice and policy can be adapted to support UK Veterans mental health. We are pleased to have presented her with this award in recognition of her work”.

Dr Cathryn Rodway is a Programme Manager at the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Safety in Mental Health (NCISH) and a Research Associate at the University of Manchester. She is receiving the 2024 Research Excellence award for her work on the study ‘Suicide after leaving the Armed Forces 1996 -2018: a cohort study’. This project examined the rates and causes of suicide in UK ex-Service personnel in comparison to the general population, looking at data for 458,000 ex-Service personnel over a 23-year period. 

With its robust methodology, this high-quality research was identified as being of particular importance as it provides much-needed insight into suicide within the UK ex-Service personnel community. This study found that while UK ex-Service personnel as a whole show no higher risk of suicide compared to the general population, those under the age of 25 face 2 to 3 times increased risk when compared with the general population of the same age. Additionally, despite there being a range of UK support services available for ex-Service personnel experiencing poor mental health, the study highlights that ex-Service personnel, particularly those who are younger, may be less likely to seek help.

In response to these findings, Dr Rodway and her colleagues also proposed policy and practice recommendations aiming to improve and maintain access to mental health care for ex-Service personnel and more general suicide prevention measures. These include encouraging ex-Service personnel to seek help and campaigns to reduce the stigma of engaging with support services. This study provides important evidence that can help towards understanding how ex-Service personnel may struggle with poor mental health and should help the UK to tailor support to meet their needs. 

Dr Cathryn Rodway said, “I am absolutely delighted that our work examining suicide risk in former personnel of the UK Armed Forces has been recognised in this way. This is an important study adding to our understanding of the causes and rates of suicide in Veterans”.

To read more on this award-winning work, read our previous research spotlight.

Congratulations to both of our winners, we are proud to be able to recognise and reward their dedication and hard work. We look forward to the 2025 conference and awards!

For more information on the FiMT Research Centre conference click here.