If there is one thing most of you will know about me it is that I am passionate about making sure our Defence personnel and their families know that their service and the sacrifice that their service asks of them does not go unnoticed and is appreciated.
You may also know that between us my husband and I have over 30 years of service across the Air Force and the Navy.
Since starting Aussie Heroes I have met, and become and I friends with, many current serving members and I consider them a very real blessing in my life.
What I have also come to realise is how many of these wonderful people, or their friends, are now affected by PTSD and depression. In some cases it is bearable and they can work and function with a few issues that need to be kept under control. In other cases, it is much more serious and in at least one case, suicide was a very real issue.
Every time I hear about another young veteran taking his own life as a result of the struggle with PTSD I can’t help but be moved to tears. I might not know them but they are someone’s child, a family member, a friend, a brother/sister by choice and I could not help but think of another family devastated by the loss. Another young veteran gone too soon.
I shared the post about one of the latest losses on the Aussie Heroes Facebook page and over 9000 people saw that post. Over two hundred people “liked” the post and quite a few people commented… and I felt helpless.
So what can we do?? Is there anything that we, the general population, can do?? If you are not living with, or closely located to, someone who is dealing with PTSD is there anything you can do???
This is something I have been thinking about for some time and did not come up with much of an answer… until this weekend when I shared that post about the suicide of another of our young veterans.
Again I thought there must be something we can do. And I thought “what can I do?” and still I came up with nothing…. until I read the following comment.
“I cant understand how we can send these men and women into battle to do things that none of us can ever fully understand then walk the other way when we bring them home…there are thousands of homeless veterans. Veterans suffering substance abuse. Ptsd. Relationship breakdown. And suicide. All things common to police and ambo’s as well. Worst of all is an ignorant public of which I am one….”
He said “worst of all is an ignorant public of which I am one.“
That resonated with me. I believe the first step is education.
I am not an expert, in fact I know very little about PTSD so the following comes from Sane Australia. Please take the time to read and learn.
So what is PTSD
What is Post-traumatic stress disorder? Post-traumatic stress disorder (sometimes called PTSD) is a form of anxiety disorder. Some people develop this condition after they have experienced a traumatic event. This event might be a serious accident, physical or sexual assault, war or torture, or a natural disaster such as a bushfire or a flood. Strong reactions such as fear, horror, anger, sadness and hopelessness are natural after events like these, of course. In most cases, these feelings will pass after the normal working-through of emotions and talking things over in your own time with family, friends or colleagues.
When these feelings are intensely distressing and go on for more than four weeks, however, it is important to ask for help from a doctor or other health professional, as they may be symptoms of a more persistent condition such as PTSD. About 25% of people who are exposed to traumatic events develop PTSD. As well as being very upsetting, the symptoms interfere with the person’s ability to carry on their everyday life, work and relationships. Treatment helps deal with the symptoms so that people are able to get on with their life again.
What are the symptoms?
Post-traumatic stress disorder is identified by three main groups of symptoms:
Flashbacks of the traumatic event through intrusive memories or nightmares. As well as strong emotions, there may be physical symptoms such as sweating, heart palpitations or panic attacks.
Feeling emotionally numb and avoiding situations that are reminders of the trauma. Avoiding possible reminders of the trauma can cause someone to lose interest in day-to-day activities and become detached from friends and family. Some people experience ‘dissociation’ – a feeling of watching from a distance as events unfold.
Feeling anxious and ‘jumpy’ for no reason. Heightened vigilance can mean the affected person is constantly on the lookout for danger, possibly leading to irritability and a lack of concentration.
Someone who has experienced a traumatic event may sometimes feel that they have ‘got over’ it, until they are confronted with a reminder that triggers symptoms again. Those affected may also develop other anxiety disorders (such as phobias or social anxiety), depression, or problems with alcohol and drug use. These conditions can be present at the same time as the PTSD, and require additional treatment.
What are the treatments?
Treatment usually involves psychological (talking) therapy with the person directly affected (and sometimes their family) by a qualified health professional such as a doctor or psychologist. The sooner someone is diagnosed and receives treatment, the more likely it is they will recover sooner. With help, a person can learn to manage their response in unavoidable situations that previously would have triggered a flashback. Medication can also be helpful for a time. With appropriate treatment and support people with PTSD are able to recover and get on with their lives.
What about friends and family?
Post-traumatic stress disorder can have a big impact on relationships. When a person tries to block out painful memories it can appear that they are irritable or uninterested in others. Help for families and friends to look after themselves as well as the person directly affected is also important.
For a long time now I have been sharing posts about PTSD on my personal page and on this page as I really believe that the way to reduce the stigma is to educate people. Maybe that is one way that we can help.
Those who do not suffer from PTSD need to know what it means. How does it affect someone’s life. How does it affect families and relationships. What do PTSD Sufferers want from us. How can we help them?
So here is my thought. I think those with PTSD are the best spokesmen and women and I know that whilst not everyone can tell their story, there are many who can.
If you are living with PTSD would you like to share your story… anonymously. You can PM me, you can email me or if you really want to remain anonymous then print it out and post it to me and I will type it up and share it.
The Aussie Hero Facebook page has over 5500 followers. Only a relatively small community but we have to start somewhere and who knows, if you share your story and that educates one person to be more understanding, sympathetic or supportive that will make a difference to someone.
I have no idea what sort of response this post will get but I have to give it a try. I know we need to break down more barriers and eradicate the stigma that exists in some areas about Mental Health, PTSD, Depression etc. This is the war after the war and we need our troops to know that we are 100% behind them… all of them.
Finally if you are reading this and you want to reach out here are a couple of places you can get help from…
IMPORTANT CONTACT NUMBERS
The Veterans and Families Counselling Service (Click here)
Veterans Line is the after hours crisis counselling telephone service of the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS). The service is designed to assist VVCS clients in coping with crisis situations outside of VVCS office hours. 1800 011 046
BEYOND BLUE: 1300 22 4636
Mental Health Line NSW: 1800 011 511
Suicide Help Line VIC: 1300 651 251
13Health QLD: 13 43 25 84
Mental Health Services Helpline TAS: 1800 332 388
Mental health Assessment & Crisis Intervention Service SA: 13 14 65
Mental Health Emergency Response Line WA: 1800 676 822
Top End Mental Health Services NT: 08 8999 4988
Mental Health Triage Service ACT: 1800 629 354
The Sane Help Centre 1800 187263
Till next time…………….keep spreading the word and educate yourself and others.