Statistics released from the Australian Department of Defence show that over 8% of the
Australian Defence Force (ADF) have experienced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in
the past 12 months; this is much higher than in the Australian community which is just over
5%. Therefore it is essential that all soldiers are monitored and treated quickly if they develop
PTSD, but is it enough to simply act after a soldier develops PTSD or should the ADF be
taking a more proactive approach and offering support to transition soldiers back into civilian
life after being involved in War.
There is no doubt that war is one of the most horrific things that any human can be a part of,
both for the soldiers as well as the civilians caught in an active warzone. Soldiers will see
things and do things that most of us will shudder at the thought of. We give our soldiers so
much training to prepare for conflict but do we train them to return home and transition back
into civilian life. One moment a soldier is fighting in an active war zone, with destruction,
injury and death all around them, then suddenly days later they are back in their lounge room
changing a dirty diaper. The transition between the two completely opposite realities is
extremely quick, so how can we expect our serviceman to simply leave behind the horrors
they have seen and been a part of.
Hector Garcia, a leading PTSD psychologist believes we need to train our soldiers to integrate
back into civilian life upon returning home from an active war situation, and if anyone should
be qualified to discuss it, then Garcia is the right man. Garcia is a Vietnam veteran who served
on three tours and got shot up in each of the three deployments. By 1971 he was medically
retired from the armed forces due to the amount of shrapnel in his body. Over the next 42
years Garcia suffered from depression, nightmares, extreme anxiety in public and self-imposed
isolation. His personal relationships suffered and as a result he saw himself married and
divorced three times and he battled an alcohol problem. All of this was due to suffering from
In the below video from TED you can watch Hector Garcia talk about his experience and
PTSD. Garcia goes on to discuss proven PTSD treatment and the need to proactively train our
soldiers to integrate back into society upon returning from war.
There is some positive news for the ADF with a new trial taking place called the RESTORE
Trial (Rapid Exposure Supporting Trauma Recovery). Serving members that have developed
PTSD during or after their military service may be able to participate in this new trial. The
treatment is a trauma focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) that is considered the best
treatment; Garcia discusses CBT treatment in his TED talk.
One would hope that this is the start of greater recognition of PTSD and better support and