Are you afraid to go to sleep because of nightmares or terrors? Do you feel detached from your partner? Do you find it easier to be on your own because you don’t want to explain how you feel? Are there things that make you feel like you are reliving a trauma? These are all symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
ANZAC Day commemorations allow you to pay tribute to the courage, mateship, dignity and readiness to of our servicemen and servicewomen in laying down their lives for country and comrade.
However, Starts at 60 wants to turn the spotlight towards those suffering trauma as a result of being involved in something callous and/or devastating.
While it is estimated that more than 30 per cent of all serving Australian defence force personnel experience post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics PTSD affects roughly 6.4 per cent of Australians.
According to registered psychologist Monique Mathis, PTSD is a particular set of symptoms and/or behaviours that can occur following a traumatic event.
“That event can be a death, the threat of death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence,” Mathis says.
She says the experience can be in the course of professional duties, like defence personnel or ambulance officers, fire fighters, police officers and hospital staff would experience, or it can be direct exposure such as indirect, such as knowing a family member of friend has been exposed to danger
One such PTSD sufferer is Matthew Parr, a navy medic for 26 months.
“I was working a weekend and a couple of my patients from ashore and I went, because we were friends, I went and got it for them. I didn’t make it back,” Parr says.
He was hospitalised and unconscious for nine days. In addition to PTSD, Parr has short-term memory loss, which he says has made him “relatively unemployable”.
Thought the trauma happened many years ago, Parr is still affected by it.
“People suffering from PTSD will often experience a number of difficulties,” Mathis says.
“Most notable is reliving the event, often through pervasive and intrusive memories, nightmares, and/or flashbacks.”
Mathis says the symptoms can also be physiological too: “Your heart might race, you might pace, you could break out into a sweat. Sufferers will often experience an overall feeling of fear or panic.” Then there are difficulties with concentration, sleep, and decision making.
But while there are challenges associated with PTSD, there is also hope.
“There are a number of treatment and support options for treating PTSD,” Mathis says.
“Those suspecting they or a family member or a friend are experiencing symptoms related to PTSD should discuss this with their GP and seek a referral to a psychologist. A psychologist can assess and provide appropriate and individual treatment. In conjunction with your GP there may be medication that is prescribed to assist in the management of the symptoms while undergoing psychological treatment,” she says.
Parr was encouraged to talk to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs about his PTSD.
Starts at 60 would like to thank Matthew Parr for sharing his personal story.