Oct 10, 2017
On this World Mental Health Day we wish to acknowledge the important role played by families and partners in the care and support of someone experiencing mental health difficulties.
Earlier this year we published the PTSD Initiative – a world-first research project investigating the physical and psychological toll of PTSD in Vietnam veterans. It found veterans with a diagnosis of PTSD displayed long-term health outcomes including heart disease, gastric complaints and sleep disorders. View our PTSD Initiative results video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFLOTwC61mM
With the support of RSL Queensland, we translated this research into clinical practice with an education program to help healthcare professionals better identify the symptoms and manage the signs of PTSD for the one in 20 Australians who suffer from this condition.
So far this year over 550 healthcare professionals have enrolled in the online education available at www.thinkgp.com.au/gmrf
This program is free and available 24-7 to health care professionals – please mention it to your doctor at your next appointment.
We know from experience carers generally neglect their own health which leads to carer stress and potentially fractured family relationships.
With their permission we share the story of Kerri-Ann and her blended family….
Kerri-Ann is married to an Australian Army veteran who has 15 years’ service, and was medically discharged in late 2016 with PTSD. She is his carer, the mother to two children and step mother to two more. The impact, challenges, and growth brought about by six years of PTSD in her family are at once heart-breaking, devastating, life-affirming, and absolutely worthwhile. Life is now different, but that does not mean it is not worth living.
Kerri-Ann: “I think I picked up quite early after my husband came home that things weren’t quite right and weren’t getting any better, actually getting worse. As I found with so many clinical issues, you can tell someone there’s a problem until you’re blue in the face, but until they accept there is an issue and accept that something needs to be done about it, a lot of the times you are fighting a losing battle.
In our case it was nearly two years after he returned home from Afghanistan that he started to seek help, and it’s now just over six years that he’s been home. He still has loads of appointments every week that he goes to and things are definitely getting better. As much as it’s a statement that he doesn’t like, this is our new normal.
Things are always changing. Things are always in flux and he finds new ways to deal with things that he didn’t deal with before and it’s reminding him and also the kids and myself as well that, you know, while it feels like it’s only little steps. If you’re looking at it every day, you can’t necessarily see the big changes all the time. If we think back a year, two years, four or five years the change in him is enormous.
Hopefully, studies like the PTSD Initiative and the subsequent education program for health care professionals will help people either recognise the signs and symptoms earlier and hopefully go a little further along that road to de-stigmatizing it, which I know is massive battle in itself. Get these people and their families the help they need earlier.”
Kerri-Ann is a lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology, she teaches paramedic science in the Faculty of Health. Kerri-Ann is a Registered Nurse with 14 years’ experience across public, private and military health care settings, including as a Nursing Officer in the Australian Army. In addition, Kerri-Ann is currently a PhD candidate, examining the impact of deployment on the intimate relationships of Australian Army personnel and their partners.
If you or a loved one need assistance or support, help is only a phone call away. Contact the Veterans and Veterans Families Support Service on 1800 011 046 or BeyondBlue on 1300 22 4636.