Con­voy to the In­vic­tus Games

Dubbo Photo News - - News - By JOHN RYAN

AR­MOURED ve­hi­cles may have been run­ning around Dubbo’s streets in re­cent days but it was all in a good cause.

The ‘Stand Tall 4 PTS’ con­voy came through the city on a run from Bris­bane to Syd­ney tak­ing an in­cred­i­bly long de­tour via Dubbo, Bathurst, Cowra, Goul­burn, Wagga Wagga, Bal­larat and Par­ra­matta, to raise aware­ness of Post Trau­matic Stress (PTS), fin­ish­ing with a han­dover to the In­vic­tus Games.

It’s all about aware­ness-rais­ing and get­ting the mes­sage out there to the na­tion’s es­ti­mated 1.4 mil­lion suf­fer­ers that there is help out there.

For years our politi­cians have re­cruited for Aus­tralia’s armed ser­vices and sent mil­i­tary per­son­nel to con­flicts over­seas, but many vet­er­ans suf­fer­ing from Post Trau­matic Stress Dis­or­der (PTSD) have been thrown on the scrap heap when they’ve re­turned home.

The rate of sui­cide amongst vet­er­ans has been high, along with fam­ily and re­la­tion­ship break­downs, in large part be­cause sup­port ser­vices just weren’t there for them, de­spite the fact they’d put them­selves in harms’ way.

En­ter Viet­nam vet­eran Tony Dell, who served in that war in the late 1960s.

A tal­ented crick­eter, he re­turned home to what seemed a charmed life, play­ing Sh­effield Shield for Queens­land and a cou­ple of Aus­tralian Test matches, but in his per­sonal life he strug­gled to keep things to­gether.

Men­tal health was a taboo sub­ject back then, with the pre­vail­ing at­ti­tude be­ing that any show of prob­lems was an ad­mis­sion of weak­ness, so it wasn’t un­til 40 years later that he was di­ag­nosed with PTS and re­alised that sick­ness was the back­drop for the mul­ti­tude of things that had gone wrong in his life.

He set up a Not-for-profit (NFP) called Stand Tall, a fit­ting trib­ute to all those who have served as the na­tion gets set to com­mem­o­rate 100 years since the World War I Armistice was signed on Novem­ber 11, 1918.

Vet­er­ans suf­fer­ing from PTS in WWI were di­ag­nosed with “Shell Shock”, in ref­er­ence to the con­tin­u­ous ar­tillery shelling which was ex­pe­ri­enced in the trenches of France’s Western Front between 1914 and 1918; peo­ple who’d “bro­ken” un­der the strain and couldn’t take any more.

Co­me­dian Tim Mar­riot (best known from his BBC-TV sit­com days in­clud­ing seven se­ries of “The Brit­tas Em­pire” as deputy leisure cen­tre man­ager Gavin and also as RAF

Pilot Tig­ger Thomp­son in “Allo, Allo”) is trav­el­ling with the Light­ning Bolt II In­vic­tus Con­voy and has adapted a play called “Shell Shock” from the book of the same name by Neil Blower.

(Dubbo Photo News pre­viewed the show in our Oc­to­ber 4 edi­tion be­fore its per­for­mance that night at Dubbo RSL.)

Aus­tralia isn’t the only western na­tion ex­pe­ri­enc­ing wide­spread men­tal health is­sues with re­turned vet­er­ans, and Mar­riot’s “Shell Shock” has won awards in the UK. Now, the con­voy or­gan­is­ers are keen to get the mes­sage out there dur­ing the Men­tal Health month of Oc­to­ber.

“Shell Shock” is one soldier’s story of cop­ing with the symp­toms which can lead to PTSD.

Af­ter serv­ing in Iraq and Afghanistan, the show’s main char­ac­ter Tommy Atkins’ ob­ser­va­tions on life on civvy street are poignant, fre­quently comic and al­ways mov­ing.

His over-emo­tional re­sponses to post of­fice queues, a trip to Ikea, his re­la­tion­ships and fam­ily lead to alien­ation and anger.

Trauma does not have to mean PTSD in the most se­vere cases imag­ined.

At any level it can cause flash­backs, night­mares, anger and de­pres­sion – of­ten lead­ing to vi­o­lence, al­co­hol and sub­stance abuse, job loss, fam­ily break­down and even sui­cide.

All th­ese top­ics are cov­ered in the pro­duc­tion with the hope suf­fer­ers, or those close to them, can con­nect and iden­tify with the per­for­mance and seek help.

Tim Mar­riot (pic­tured) said the hu­mour in “Shell Shock” is com­pelling.

“Much of the play’s power comes from com­edy, some­times very dark,” Mr Mar­riot said.

“It’s amaz­ing how ef­fec­tive this can be at open­ing doors and minds to the is­sues in­volved.

He also praised Neil Blower, the au­thor of the book which the play is based on.

“Neil Blower Watkin’s writ­ing is laced with hu­mour, he is a fan­tas­ti­cally pos­i­tive chap.”


Light­ning Bolt II In­vic­tus Con­voy or­gan­iser Sally Hod­der at the front of the Dubbo RSL Club on the week­end. PHOTO:

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