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Many still fighting personal battles

The ravages of war continue to plague vets and their families, with women often left on the front line.

QUESTION:

I read the question and reply on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (The Advertiser, 24/5/14). It was well-meaning, I guess, but very academic.

I have lived with a war veteran for more than 52 years. Bad war experiences come back in flashes. It is painful when it happens; there is confusion and at times drinking.

Very little can repair what one has been through.

There is complete disregard from governments. They are very slow and it seems unwilling to deal with the situation, to do anything for those men (and women) they sent to war, decades later when they are older and needing help.

“A man who is good enough to shed blood for his country, is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards.” Not in real life unfortunately. I continue to have a huge dislike for anyone reviewing veteran’s entitlements who have never been through a war and have no knowledge whatsoever of the consequences.

ANSWER:

Many women in your situation will empathise with your sentiments. War service can cause physical, psychological and mental damage, and you have every right to feel angry and frustrated.

The Vietnam War was different in many ways from previous wars and resulted in distressing symptoms that later became known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Although shell shock and battle fatigue had been recognised previously, no effective treatment was implemented. Only in recent times has PTSD been formally accepted as a mental illness.

It was years before the Vietnam War was even recognised as a war, and later still before effective treatment was put in place. In addition these young men came home to a hostile reception.

It is not surprising there are veterans today who still experience war-related symptoms, which are distressing for them and frightening for wives and families. Those with PTSD can experience a range of emotions including anger, resentment, betrayal, fear, sadness, deep sorrow and guilt.

Wives also can suffer from some of these emotions. When a family member is sick, the attention is, understandably, focused on them. Carers become part of the treatment team and may lose sight of their own needs. At times carers may suffer more than the sick person with worry and symptoms of their own.

You may not have taken enough care of your own health. Fifty two years is a very long time, and it would be normal for you to feel depressed and hopeless. This feeling may have increased as you grew older.

Share your concerns with your GP. Also try and increase your interest activities. There are probably other wives of veterans in your area. You could offer support and friendship to each other and you could share your sentiments with them.

The panel considers you would find talking to a professional counsellor helpful and supportive. It would help you, not to forget the past, but to prevent it damaging the present. It is never too late to seek treatment.

The Vietnam Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service has trained professional staff who work with vets on all aspects of PTSD. They have staff in country areas. It may be hard to understand how those who have not experienced something can be of help in resolving it. But counsellors are trained and are knowledgeable about the war and its effects. They have also had the best teachers – the veterans themselves.

They are skilled in addressing flashbacks and nightmares, with good results. The service runs groups for veterans, their wives and jointly. There are anger management groups for men and for women. Counsellors also handle drug and alcohol problems or domestic violence issues where appropriate, or refer these to specialised agencies. Phone 1800 011 046 anytime, day or night. Calls are free from landlines. Visit www.dva.gov.au/health_and_wellbeing/health_programs/vvcs/ for more information.

You may also like to contact the Department of Veterans Affairs to check you are receiving all the benefits you are entitled to.

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Relationships Australia (SA) appoints panels of general practitioners, medical specialists, lawyers, therapeutic and financial counsellors to discuss each letter before the appropriate professional answers it.

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