Young vets left feel­ing ne­glected

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - LY­DIA KELLNER

cruit­ment num­ber re­quire­ments. We find this pos­si­bil­ity very con­cern­ing, as once a per­son is re­cruited into the ADF it be­comes dif­fi­cult for the ADF to dis­charge un­suit­able mem­bers and there is the like­li­hood that per­son­nel that have been iden­ti­fied as at risk to psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems be­fore re­cruit­ment could be fur­ther ex­posed to trauma.”

Soldier On chair­man and for­mer Chief of Army, Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Peter Leahy also sub­mit­ted a re­port to the in­quiry, em­pha­sis­ing the need for more re­search.

“It is im­por­tant that more is done to col­lect in­for­ma­tion on what these men and women are strug­gling with, and how they can be sup­ported in Aus­tralia,” he writes.

“We must also re­mem­ber that each one of these wounded Aus­tralians has a fam­ily and friends who will also re­quire sup­port while they re­ha­bil­i­tate.

“Psy­cho­log­i­cal and phys­i­cal wounds can have a pro­longed and de­bil­i­tat­ing ef­fect on the vet­eran and their fam­ily ( as) there is an in­creased rate of drug and al­co­hol use and ad­dic­tion, chronic pain, sleep dis­tur­bance, prob­lem­atic anger, par­ent­ing and re­la­tion­ship prob­lems and dif­fi­cul­ties tran­si­tion­ing into a work­place.”

A re­port on the in­quiry due Fe­bru­ary 19, 2016.

Sub­mis­sions can be made at aph. gov. au.

is WAR vet­eran Phillip Thompson wants to be the voice for a gen­er­a­tion of de­fence per­son­nel af­fected by PTSD.

An in­jured East Ti­mor and Afghanistan war vet­eran, Mr Thompson is Aus­tralia’s youngest RSL pen­sion and wel­fare of­fi­cer and rep­re­sents a younger gen­er­a­tion whose men­tal health prob­lems stem­ming from de­ploy­ments to Afghanistan, Iraq and East Ti­mor have been widely ig­nored.

Mr Thompson said many of Aus­tralia’s ex- ser­vice or­gan­i­sa­tions ( ESO) were manned by Viet­nam vet­er­ans who did not wish to change mod­els of op­er­a­tion to suit vet­er­ans aged 30 or un­der.

He be­lieves this lack of co­op­er­a­tion has been the rea­son why younger vet­er­ans refuse to seek help when faced with PTSD or other men­tal health is­sues.

“I’ve sent about 20 emails to ESOs about want­ing to vol­un­teer with them as a younger vet­eran but have re­ceived only one re­sponse back so far, ” he said.

“That’s not good enough. I want to go there. I want to vol­un­teer but it’s like they don’t want us there, which is a bit of a kick in the butt.

“I want to hold the torch for our guys, so that my gen­er­a­tion can come in, wher­ever it is, and feel like it’s not an old boys’ club be­cause that’s how they feel.”

Mr Thompson’s quest to shake up Aus­tralia’s men­tal health sup­port for vet­er­ans has been the di­rect re­sult of his own ex­pe­ri­ence.

Barely 21, the for­mer pri­vate de­ployed to Afghanistan with the 1st Bat­tal­ion in 2009 when he was in­jured by an im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vice that left him deaf in one ear and also caused some mi­nor brain dam­age and mem­ory loss, lead­ing to him suf­fer­ing chronic PTSD.

While ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the im­pact of an IED is trau­ma­tis­ing in it­self, Mr Thompson said it was his treat­ment by his bat­tal­ion and the wider ADF that caused his PTSD.

“I was left with no sup­port when I got home,” he said.

“I was a 21- year- old kid to put in bluntly who was wounded in ac­tion, taken from what I knew as be­ing nor­mal while over there, to get­ting on a plane and com­ing home to Aus­tralia, be­ing put in a hospi- talta and out again be­fore be­ing toldto ‘ OK, we’ll see you soon’. WhatW did that mean, ‘ see you soon’?so

“So I had no de­com­pres­sion tr train­ing, no one to re­ally help m me deal with my is­sues – to let me know whether I was do­ing the right thing or the wrong thing.

“I was drink­ing a lot, fight­ing a lot, eat­ing more pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tion than I prob­a­bly should have, swap­ping pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tion with other wounded – and my now- wife, Jenna, had to put me in hos­pi­tal as a re­sult.

“I didn’t un­der­stand what was hap­pen­ing to me.”

Mr Thompson said he par­tic­u­larly felt let down by his su­pe­ri­ors who showed no in­ter­est in his men­tal well­be­ing de­spite his be­hav­iour.

“What I couldn’t un­der­stand was how my em­ployer, the place I loved so much and went over­seas to lay my life on the line for, felt like they could turn their back on me in a heart­beat,” he said.

“It’s not like there’s a lack of un­der­stand­ing when it comes to PTSD. It was more like the bat­tal­ion didn’t care.”

Mr Thompson said as­sis­tance pro­vided to vet­er­ans suf­fer­ing from PTSD needed a des­per­ate over­haul.

“No one asks us for in­put, yet they ( politi­cians) make de­ci­sions on how it should be done,” he said. “That is what I’m hop­ing to change, that’s what I’m fight for.”

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