Jun 26, 2017
(Pictured: Richard and Karen McLaren)
PTSD Awareness Day aims to help remove the stigma surrounding posttraumatic stress disorder, and getting conversations started about this serious illness. We caught up with Vietnam veteran and PTSD Initiative participant Richard to hear how PTSD has affected his life.
Today is National PTSD Awareness Day as recognised in the US, Canada and the UK.
Richard is a Vietnam veteran who participated in the PTSD Initiative, a world-first research project undertaken by the Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation, investigating both the long-term physical and psychological toll of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Vietnam veterans.
This research formed the basis of the ThinkGP education on PTSD.
Diagnosed with PTSD in 1995, Richard has suffered from severe depression, attempted suicide, anxiety attacks, social dysfunction and phobias. Richard is a professional photographer and is researching the concept of therapeutic photography as an alternate therapy for people with PTSD, from military personnel to first responders.
Why you got involved with the PTSD Initiative?
Having been diagnosed with PTSD back in 1994, I found there was a lack of professional understanding about it. I had to educate myself, along with my GP as to what it was. There was very little information; psychiatrists would actually give up on you. They’d just say, “We can’t help you.”
What’s your personal experience with PTSD? How has it manifested itself in your life?
I got into a very depressed state, a lot of anxiety. The hypervigilance, the hiding behind windows in my own home, looking at places I can escape to if we were ever attacked, those types of things.
In terms of the national education for GPS and healthcare providers, what do you think is most important thing that has come out of this for you personally and I guess broader as well?
The fact that now we’re going further than what previous tests were doing in rolling out an education for GPs based on the results of the PTSD Initiative is great, because, before GPs would only treat physical symptoms in isolation and refer mental health issues to the specialists. I think from doing ThinkGP they will be more aware that the two go together.
Is that a satisfaction for you, knowing not only are you doing something for yourself, but for others as well?
It’s surprising the number of people still out there going, “There’s nothing wrong with me”, or, “I can’t get help anyway.” Hopefully this education will help them some hope. That’s what I’m very keen on. PTSD is a very selfish condition; you cannot think of anything else but yourself, whether you want to or not. It’s very difficult to come and talk to strangers; even your local doctor who you might have gone to for years, but you still have trouble with that because there’s still that stigma to mental health. It’s been important in my situation to have a very supportive and understanding partner beside me. We all need effective and informed support.