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Serving your country is one of the toughest jobs around. For some veterans, ongoing mental health issues means the conflict continues beyond the battlefield.
Serving your country on the battlefield is one of the toughest jobs around. Not only do our soldiers stare down the threat of death or physical harm, but for some veterans, the conflict continues beyond the battlefield.
“Some current serving and ex-ADF members and their families endure ongoing mental health battles.”
Some current serving and ex-ADF members and their families endure ongoing mental health battles like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), health risk behaviours such as increased use of alcohol and medications and other conditions as a result of their service.
Time spent in uniform is much more than just a job – it’s a way of life. After proudly serving their country and trained to be self-reliant and highly capable, the transition back into civilian life can be traumatic in itself.
Some of the challenges may include:
We’ve written about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder before as it can apply to the general population, but the unique experience of current and ex-ADF members makes for a particularly tough battle. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs describes PTSD as: “a psychological response to the experience of intense traumatic events, including those that threaten life. For military veterans, the trauma may relate to direct combat duties, being in a dangerous war zone, or taking part in peacekeeping missions under difficult and stressful conditions.”
The range of mental health and emotional challenges experienced by returned ADF members are essentially a result of different ways of coping with trauma. Some people will recall and re-experience traumatic events of war in different ways, such as when dreaming, thinking or closing their eyes, when using alcohol or drugs and even during normal wakefulness.
Symptoms may include:
In this fantastic video series, filmed for Operation Compass, ex-ADF members share some of the mental health challenges they faced when they returned to civilian life and offered some great advice on the importance of speaking up:
“I found the more I opened up and talked about it, the better it’s been for me… I didn’t think I’d ever genuinely be happy again and have mates like I had in the Army.”
“I started asking for help and people started helping me. That blew my mind. I felt like I actually mattered. When you start feeling low, get help. It is so much easier to get help when you’ve only fallen down one step, than when you’ve fallen down the whole flight.”
“One of the traps I think most soldiers fell into was heavy drinking… I think most people bottled up their problems, and that was one of the silly things that we should never have done. If you had a problem, you should be able to talk about it openly to other people. It’s the only way you’re ever going to get any sort of reprieve from your problems.”
 Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
If you need someone to talk to, MensLine Australia professional counsellors are here to provide information and support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.