Returned service men and women and emergency service workers suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder will be offered a lifeline to help reduce the stigma surrounding the illness.
Not-for-profit hospital St John of God will run a session that includes an informal discussion about post-traumatic stress, organised with the help of the Returned Services League sub-branch Orange.
The session will be held in the CWA Hall in Robertson Park to remove any association with a doctor’s clinic or hospital and to make attendees feel more at home.
RSL Orange president Lindsay Wright said it was one of the first times he had seen open and free PTSD counselling available.
Mr Wright said he knew of “quite a few” Vietnam veterans who suffered from PTSD, and was sure first responders could make use of the service.
“People who suffer from PTSD often keep it to themselves,” he said.
“We often know who suffers from it but you don’t really talk about it … you don’t like to be reminded of it.”
Veterans in Orange have regular social catch-ups, including weekly meetings at the Ex-Services’ Country Club, but Mr Wright said PTSD wasn’t something that was often discussed openly.
“You can pick if someone’s down in the dumps and we’ll tell them a joke and try and get around them to pick them up,” he said.
St John of God clinical nurse consultant for mental health Sean Fitz-Gerald said this was the first time the hospital had held a session outside of Sydney.
He said the organisation treated people from a large geographical area from either side of the Blue Mountains, but isolation was a big factor for sufferers of PTSD in regional areas.
“A lot of people with people with PTSD move to regional areas and don’t like to be around people … in a lot of cases it’s hard to access services, and even then you have to go to crowded and busy areas,” he said.
“We were very conscious of that when working out where to hold it and that’s why the CWA Hall is so perfect – it’s an open space and it’s in the park.”
He said the informal discussion wouldn’t be discussing specific traumas in order to make a safe space for those with PTSD, but talk about about struggles in their day-to-day lives and how to overcome that.
Two special occasions for the veteran community will be commemorated in the coming weeks.
The RSL will be commemorating Victory in the Pacific on Wednesday, August 15 and Vietnam Veteran’s Day on Saturday, August 18 at the Cenotaph in Robertson Park.
Services begin at 11am on both days, and tea and coffee, along with finger food, will be available after each ceremony at the Orange Ex-Services’ Club.
Mr Wright said they were important days, with August 18 a special occasion for plenty of Orange’s veterans whose service wasn’t recognised until well after returning from war in Vietnam.
Contact Mr Wright on 6362 5959 for more information.
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