Hear from a veteran family

Hear from a veteran family

30 March 2021

Nearly one in four people who access support at Mates4Mates are family members of veterans impacted by service. When veterans are dealing with serious mental health issues or injuries, the dynamics of their family unit can be significantly altered. But with the right support, there is a way forward, as Anna Douglas discovered.

When Anna’s husband, Wayne, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and started deteriorating, she had no idea of the extent of difficulties that she was about to face.

Wayne served in the Australian Army for more than 20 years before discharging. But like many veterans, the trauma of his experiences followed him home.

Anna soon discovered that in addition to veterans becoming socially isolated, partners can quickly become isolated too.

“All of a sudden we are carers – and have to pick up the skills and knowledge to support our partner, and try to find people to support us along the way,” she said.

“Veterans face the trauma every day, but we also live through that trauma with them and that can be challenging.

“You learn their trigger points and can predict their behaviours – but as a result it can change your behaviour and you can experience symptoms of secondary PTSD too.”

Anna knew she had to find a way forward and focus on what was in her control. She took it upon herself to learn as much as she could about veteran issues, PTSD, and how to support a partner through it. Through this, she has found Mates4Mates to be an important pillar of support on their journey.

“The staff at Mates4Mates engage the entire family unit which has been amazing. As a family, we needed this. This has given us the opportunity to take part in fun activities and spend time together without any of the stress,” she said.

“For me, as a partner, it provides so much respite. Wayne said it has also enabled him to become a better father and connect with his children. It helps him get out of the house and into a safe place to socialise.

“We’ve also been able to use services like the couples counselling, and find a community there.”

While many days are still tough, Anna said that by having the support of Mates4Mates – which has become like an extended family to them – she has learnt that she can build resilience and get through it.

Now, she’s passionate about raising awareness of the impacts of service-related injuries on families and the importance of having support and information available to families, in addition to veterans.

“I’ve seen many veterans and partners find themselves overwhelmed and wanting to give up, but you can work through it with support. We need to have that message out there. A veteran family can work,” she said.

“There is support from organisations like Mates4Mates who you can talk through everything with. Open Arms is also available 24/7 – you can call them anytime you need, even in the middle of the night.”

Anna said while raising awareness of the effects on families is important to her, she also wants to encourage the wider community to educate themselves on the issues that veterans face.

“Many veterans have been through stuff that we will never have to go through. And they did it for all of us,” she said.

“It’s important that we have more empathy for their experiences. If you see someone acting strange and you know they are a veteran – have some empathy – because you don’t know if they have PTSD or what they’re going through.

“As a community, we need to be a lot more embracing towards veterans and families to help them get through.”

Mates4Mates services are available to current serving members, veterans, and family members. If you need support, call 1300 4 MATES. 

  • Veterans
  • Mental health
  • Partners and families

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