A Bendigo army officer battling post traumatic stress disorder will return to her hometown this weekend, leading a community workout she hopes will stop veterans taking their own lives.
Major Kellie Dadds is encouraging residents to join in her 22 push-up challenge outside the Soldiers Memorial on Pall Mall this Sunday.
The social media trend sees people film themselves performing 22 push-ups for 22 days, the number of US military members who reportedly die by suicide every day.
The servicewoman and mother-of-two has been deployed overseas eight times in the course of her 20-year career, with the majority of that time spent in the Middle East.
While overseas deployments were the reason many people joined the defence force, the experience took a toll on their health.
“War is not a pretty business,” she said. “Unfortunately, some of those experiences have now caught up with me.”
Last year, after two decades of military service, she suffered a mental breakdown.
It struck without warning.
The officer was no longer able to concentrate, nightmares intruded on her sleep and flashbacks of her time at war refused to cease.
At first, she was ashamed to reach out for help.
“When you're trained in the military, you're trained to kelp others. Being able to sit back and ask for help yourself, it's really daunting,” she said.
But her family, attuned to the condition’s signs an symptoms, quickly intervened and the army was able to provide her immediate medical support.
Such help meant the mental health outlook for Australian veterans was less bleak than their US peers, she said.
It was those who died by suicide, as well as their families, that moved Ms Dadds to take on the 22 push-up challenge. Every day of the challenge has seen her work out in a new place with a different, high-profile guest.
Earlier this month, she was joined by former Liberal party leader Dr Brendan Nelson at the Australian War Memorial, the organisation he now directs.
Despite taking time away from the army to overcome PTSD, Ms Dadds was confident she would recover. But the disorder was not something she could ever leave behind entirely.
“I don't think you'll ever completely get rid of PTSD but you can certainly manage it.”
Ms Dadd’s push-up challenge starts at 11am on Sunday. More information can be found on Facebook.
If you or someone you know is in need of help, phone Lifeline on 131 114 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467. In an emergency, dial 000.