Soldier On, safe Haven

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Western Opinion - By JON BAS­SETT

SOLDIER On will cre­ate a com­mu­nity of sup­port for re­cent armed forces vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies tack­ling Post Trau­matic Stress Dis­or­der (PTSD) and other in­juries when the char­ity moves to new Floreat of­fices this month.

“You just have to ask for help, and you keep go­ing by draw­ing on the sup­port­ers around you,” Soldier On am­bas­sador Liam Haven (27) said.

Mr Haven was blinded by a road­side bomb while he served with the army in Iraq on 2008.

He took up art to “re­lax” from the stress of learn­ing to use a white cane, and at the new of­fice he will teach other vet­er­ans the gui­tar. How­ever, he said armed ser­vices’ at­ti­tudes to ask­ing for help were hard to change.

In­ci­dences of PTSD are ex­pected to in­crease as army, air force and navy vet­er­ans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and bor­der con­trol ap­proach 70,000, with Aus­tralia con­tin­u­ing its par­tic­i­pa­tion in the con­flicts.

Soldier On WA man­ager Ray Wil­son said po­lice, fire­fight­ers and am­bu­lance paramedics were in­creas­ingly af­fected by PTSD be­cause of more drunken and drug-af­fected vi­o­lence and tragic in­ci­dents.

Soldier On, es­tab­lished in 2012, is known for fundrais­ing us­ing ex­treme sports and ac­tiv­i­ties mir­ror­ing mil­i­tary mis­sions.

It ad­di­tion­ally uses low-im­pact ac­tiv­i­ties such as yoga, morn­ing bi­cy­cle rides, so­cial groups and fam­ily days to stem the tide of PTSD-in­duced iso­la­tion, par­tic­u­larly in north­ern and south­ern sub­urbs where there are a large num­ber of vet­er­ans.

The new of­fices pro­vided by CSIRO, a Soldier On sup­porter, will have ser­vices in­clud­ing com­puter labs for vet­er­ans to write and do on-line cour­ses.

It will also have class­rooms so vet­er­ans can get qual­i­fi­ca­tions for post-ser­vice lives and in­ter­view rooms where treat­ments can be dis­cussed.

Con­tact with those who can help could as sim­ple as at­tend­ing a bi­cy­cle main­te­nance evening.

Pic­ture: Jon Bas­sett

Liam Haven and Ray Wil­son will take on vet­er­ans’ needs at the Soldier On of­fice.

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