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Regional duo nominated for mental health reporting award

Two regional journalists have been recognised for their reporting of mental health issues.

Sam Blackledge, of the Plymouth Herald, and Aasma Day, of the Lancashire Evening Post, have both been nominated in charity Mind’s 2015 Media Awards.

The duo will compete in the same category, Journalist of the Year, for their work in covering mental health for their respective newspapers.

Sam was shortlisted for spearheading the Herald’s Safer Spaces campaign, which highlighted the issue of mentally ill people being held in police cells due to there not being enough spaces available at Plymouth’s purpose-built mental health unit.

Sam Blackledge, left, and Aasma Day, right

Sam Blackledge, left, and Aasma Day, right

The campaign won the backing of former Labour leader Ed Miliband, and was joint-winner of Community Campaign of the Year at the EDF Energy South West Media Awards.

Aasma was nominated for her ‘Battle on the Home Front’ series of reports, which highlighted some of the hardships faced by veterans returning to civilian life including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression and addiction.

She also wrote about Sheila Wignall, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 69.

Aasma described her nomination as an “honour and a privilege”, adding: “It was fascinating and humbling to speak to many veterans facing mental health issues during the ‘Battle On The Home Front’ series.

“I would like to thank the individuals concerned for their bravery in speaking out to raise awareness.

“Sheila Wignall, thought to be one of the country’s oldest people to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, was also extremely courageous in talking to me so candidly about her story to help challenge stereotypes about mental health.

“Newspapers have a great responsibility and power to inform and inspire people about mental health issues and challenge outdated myths and stereotypes.

“I am delighted the Lancashire Evening Post has been recognised in this way and that we received great feedback from the community for these stories.”

Other nominees are Rosemary Bennett, from The Times, Vicky Johnson, from BBC Look North, Men McGrail, from BBC Somerset and freelancer Louise Tickle.

Said Sam: “I am honoured to be nominated in the Mind media awards for The Herald’s Safer Spaces campaign, calling for an end to the detention of mental health patients in police cells.

“The accolades we have received for this campaign would never have been possible without the help of all the medical professionals, police officers, legal experts and media teams who allowed us unprecedented access to documents, data and restricted spaces to help tell our story.

“Our thoughts remain with those who still battle with serious mental health problems every day, and the families of those who are no longer around to fight.”

The ceremony will be held at The Troxy, London, on Monday 16 November.