Convoy to the Invictus Games
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: