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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Diggers say Defence 'all talk, no action' on PTSD

Defence 'all talk, no action' on PTSD
Ian McPhedran
Defence Writer
News Limited Network
March 14, 2013

TWO diggers seriously injured in Afghanistan have slammed the Defence Force's treatment of soldiers suffering post traumatic stress disorder.

Army Engineer Michael Clarke and infantry soldier Tim Wilson were left with shocking physical and mental wounds in separate bomb blasts while fighting the Taliban.

Now members of a community-based support centre, they have warned there are no adequate systems in place in the army to manage PTSD, with wounded and damaged soldiers so scared of the stigma attached to mental injuries that they self-medicate rather than risk being labelled a malingerer - or a "linger".

The pair said that for every soldier suffering from genuine PTSD, there was one faking it to try and rort the system.

Mr Clarke, 29, from the 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment, sustained horrific leg injuries when the Bushmaster vehicle he was driving triggered a massive bomb.

"I looked down and saw my right leg sticking out at right angles and I thought it was severed and that I was going to be a hop-along," he said.

He said he went on an alcohol and pain killer binge on his return to Australia rather than seeking professional help because he was afraid of being accused of faking mental illness.

"My rehabilitation was going out on the piss and having fun in my wheelchair with the boys carrying me up stairs. At one point I was doing a litre of bourbon a night," Mr Clarke, from Tweed Heads in NSW, said.

He and infantry soldier Tim Wilson, 26, from the 6th Battalion, said the army's top brass talked a lot about PTSD and the support available to soldiers but the reality was much different.

"If you are diagnosed with PTSD you feel your whole career is over, because it is," Mr Wilson, who lost part of his hand to an enemy bomb, said.
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