Tony Dell served in the Vietnam War in 1967 and 1968.
In the years since, he has lost jobs, his marriage, his children and friends.
But it was only 40 years after Vietnam that he discovered why he’d experienced these hardships: he was suffering post-traumatic stress from his experiences in war.
On Friday, Mr Dell, members of the Defence Force, and emergency services workers arrived in Bendigo as part of the Stand Tall 4 PTS Lightning Bolt 2 Convoy, an event to raise awareness of post-traumatic stress.
“We feel the military and the first responders are most at risk, so whatever movement we make is going to help the other million or so other Australians who also have it as a result of crime, accidents, (etcetera),” Mr Dell, Stand Tall 4 PTS founder, said.
John Gilmour, a research assistant at the Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation, said post-traumatic stress was “a perfectly normal response to an abnormal situation”.
After the brain experienced a trauma, Mr Gilmour said, it started to look for other traumas to avoid.
But this plays out in symptoms from depression, anxiety and sleeplessness, to numbness, risk-taking and dissociative amnesia.
Mr Gilmour said post-traumatic stress was difficult to diagnose and it manifested differently in different people, but advised anyone experiencing difficulties after a trauma to seek help.
He also urged anyone who knew of someone experiencing problems to talk to them about it.
“What starts as a breeze turns into a gust, and becomes a tempest that destroys lives,” he said.
This help-seeking message is what Stand Tall 4 PTS hopes to spread on their journey through the eastern states this spring.
Mr Dell said it was hoped that awareness would lead to knowledge, and through knowledge there would come action on addressing post-traumatic stress.
“With post-traumatic stress, it’s an insidious illness, and it’s one of the least-known… and not enough money is being spent on it,” Mr Dell said.
Convoy trucks into Bendigo
A series of military and emergency services vehicles rolled into Bendigo on Friday, all with the aim of raising awareness of a serious mental health condition.
The Lightning Bolt II Invictus convoy came to spread awareness of post-traumatic stress, a condition that arises from exposure to traumatic events and can have a profound and negative impact on a person’s life.
The convoy stopped off at Bendigo and District RSL in Havilah Street, where it was met with much interest from members of the public at the club.
Stand Tall 4 PTS founder Tony Dell said the reception to the event through Queensland, New South Wales and now Victoria had been “marvellous”.
The convoy will finish in Sydney this month, ahead of the opening of the Invictus Games.