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I salute you all

At the time of writing this I am reminded of those who have served our country. It is just after the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, Remembrance Day. In Australia, Remembrance Day is a day we reflect and remember those who have put their lives at risk to keep the world a safer place for us all to live.

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On the website of the Australian War Memorial we are reminded why this day is a special day for all Australians. They say the following –

At 11 am on 11 November 1918 the guns of the Western Front fell silent after more than four years continuous warfare. The allied armies had driven the German invaders back, having inflicted heavy defeats upon them over the preceding four months. In November the Germans called for an armistice (suspension of fighting) in order to secure a peace settlement. They accepted allied terms that amounted to unconditional surrender.

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The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month attained a special significance in the post-war years. The moment when hostilities ceased on the Western Front became universally associated with the remembrance of those who had died in the war. This first modern world conflict had brought about the mobilisation of over 70 million people and left between 9 and 13 million dead, perhaps as many as one-third of them with no known grave. The allied nations chose this day and time for the commemoration of their war dead.

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On the first anniversary of the armistice in 1919 two minutes’ silence was instituted as part of the main commemorative ceremony at the new Cenotaph in London. The silence was proposed by Australian journalist Edward Honey, who was working in Fleet Street. At about the same time, a South African statesman made a similar proposal to the British Cabinet, which endorsed it. King George V personally requested all the people of the British Empire to suspend normal activities for two minutes on the hour of the armistice “which stayed the worldwide carnage of the four preceding years and marked the victory of Right and Freedom”. The two minutes’ silence was popularly adopted and it became a central feature of commemorations on Armistice Day.

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On the second anniversary of the armistice in 1920 the commemoration was given added significance when it became a funeral, with the return of the remains of an unknown soldier from the battlefields of the Western Front. Unknown soldiers were interred with full military honours in Westminster Abbey in London and at the Arc de Triumph in Paris. The entombment in London attracted over one million people within a week to pay their respects at the unknown soldier’s tomb. Most other allied nations adopted the tradition of entombing unknown soldiers over the following decade.

After the end of the Second World War, the Australian and British governments changed the name to Remembrance Day. Armistice Day was no longer an appropriate title for a day which would commemorate all war dead.

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In Australia on the 75th anniversary of the armistice in 1993 Remembrance Day ceremonies again became the focus of national attention. The remains of an unknown Australian soldier, exhumed from a First World War military cemetery in France, were ceremonially entombed in the Memorial’s Hall of Memory. Remembrance Day ceremonies were conducted simultaneously in towns and cities all over the country, culminating at the moment of burial at 11 am and coinciding with the traditional two minutes’ silence. This ceremony, which touched a chord across the Australian nation, re-established Remembrance Day as a significant day of commemoration.

Four years later, in 1997, Governor-General Sir William Deane issued a proclamation formally declaring 11 November to be Remembrance Day, urging all Australians to observe one minute’s silence at 11 am on 11 November each year to remember those who died or suffered for Australia’s cause in all wars and armed conflicts.

It is a sad fact that we have lost many of our service people during the wars and many of those who have come home now suffer with physical conditions and also mental health conditions.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – otherwise referred to as PTSD is a condition that many of our service men and women now suffer with.

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The description of this condition is perfectly described by Mind Health Connect as follows –

Fear is a natural and healthy response to a life-threatening event. When people experience or witness danger, the body prepares to take action with the “fight-or-flight” response. The heart rate speeds up, breathing quickens and we feel anxious and ‘pumped’, enabling us to run or combat danger. These feelings of fear normally fade away after the traumatic event. When someone develops post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), fear, anxiety and memories of trauma persist for a long period of time and interfere with their ability to function in life. PTSD is a treatable anxiety disorder affecting around one million Australians each year.

Traumatic experiences that involve death, serious injury or sexual violence (actual or threatened) can potentially cause PTSD. Such events include physical or sexual assault, living in a war zone, torture, and natural disasters. Everyone responds to trauma differently and although people may experience extreme distress, most eventually recover on their own. It is only a minority of people who develop PTSD after a traumatic event.

The main symptoms of PTSD are:

  • re-experiencing the trauma (memories, nightmares or flashbacks)
  • avoiding reminders of the trauma
  • negative thoughts and mood
  • increased alertness to the environment and physical response to sudden changes that could be a sign of danger.

PTSD can be a chronic and disabling condition that has a devastating impact on individuals, relationships and families. Other conditions may also develop, such as depression or substance abuse. With the right support and treatment, recovery is possible.

Sgt. 1st Class Lance Amsden, platoon sergeant for the 1st Platoon, Company C, 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, watches as CH-47 Chinook Helicopters circle above during a dust storm at Forward Operating Base Kushamond, Afghanistan, July 17, during preparation for an air-assault mission.

When we hear of some of the things witnessed by our service people, I can’t imagine any of them returning without this disorder, though there are lucky ones who have managed to avoid it.

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PTSD, while generally being linked to the atrocities our service people have encountered; it is often linked to those who have experienced other life threatening situations

According to Beyond Blue, PTSD is a particular set of reactions that can develop in people who have been through a traumatic event which threatened their life or safety, or that of others around them. This could be a car or other serious accident, physical or sexual assault, war or torture, or disasters such as bushfires or floods. As a result, the person experiences feelings of intense fear, helplessness or horror.

Thankfully, and hopefully, I will never have to witness the things that some of our service people have witnessed, nor will I witness some of the sights our policemen, firemen, surgeons and doctors witness. I can honestly say that I can’t begin to imagine how they cope with some of the things they have been forced to see or be involved in. I am also thankful that my brain has not had to ‘deal with’ these situations. How can your brain cope when you witness or experience atrocities?

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More and more, local doctors are diagnosing PTSD in patients many would think could not have this condition as they haven’t been involved in such traumatic situations, but when we go back to the words of Beyond Blue –PTSD is a set of reactions developed by people who have been through a traumatic event – how can we describe ‘traumatic’? For each individual, trauma can be different.

The average person has had no training in warlike situations, attending or being involved in car accidents, dealing with sights in an operating theatre or emergency ward. But the average person has also not been trained in dealing with other traumatic situations such as bullying. While many people might say that you can’t possibly put ‘bullying’ and ‘trauma’ in the same sentence – think again – do you really understand how bullying can affect someone?

Children are now being diagnosed with PTSD, in most cases they haven’t been to war or such situations, nor have many adults, but, they have been bullied, and more and more, victims of bullying are being diagnosed with PTSD.

Further information on PTSD is explained by Beyond Blue below –

People with PTSD often experience feelings of panic or extreme fear, similar to the fear they felt during the traumatic event. A person with PTSD experiences four main types of difficulties.

  • Re-living the traumatic event – The person relives the event through unwanted and recurring memories, often in the form of vivid images and nightmares. There may be intense emotional or physical reactions, such as sweating, heart palpitations or panic when reminded of the event.
  • Being overly alert or wound up – The person experiences sleeping difficulties, irritability and lack of concentration, becoming easily startled and constantly on the lookout for signs of danger.
  • Avoiding reminders of the event – The person deliberately avoids activities, places, people, thoughts or feelings associated with the event because they bring back painful memories.
  • Feeling emotionally numb – The person loses interest in day-to-day activities, feels cut off and detached from friends and family, or feels emotionally flat and numb.Do any of the descriptions or symptoms above sound familiar?

It’s not unusual for people with PTSD to experience other mental health problems at the same time. These may have developed directly in response to the traumatic event or have followed the PTSD. These additional problems, most commonly depression, anxiety, and alcohol or drug use, are more likely to occur if PTSD has persisted for a long time.

Do any of the descriptions or symptoms above sound familiar?

PTSD comes down to what our brains can deal with, and how we physically and emotionally deal with certain situations – for each and every one of us that is different.

Victims of bullying often suffer with the above symptoms – they will avoid activities, places and people associated with their bully or bullying situation. They can lose interest in day-to-day activities, they have vivid memories and the bullying that has occurred and the fear that it will occur again, with these memories often leading to physical reactions of sweating, panic and heart palpitations.

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Many people will find that counselling and psychological or psychiatric care will get them through PTSD. Some may find that simply talking about their situation will help while others will find that they can’t possibly talk about it at all. Medication may help some while it can cause even more problems for others.

There are many reasons that can cause individuals to have PTSD and there equally as many different ways to help sufferers, but there is definitely no ‘quick fix’.

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So, while my thoughts are today with our service people who lost their lives fighting for our/their country, and those who have returned to only continue with their suffering, I am also reminded of those who deal with PTSD on a daily basis – no matter what the cause.

If you or anyone you know may be suffering with any of the symptoms mentioned in this article, please seek help from your doctor or contact Beyond Blue www.beyondblue.org.au or Lifeline www.lifeline.org.au or relevant organizations within your country.

For those who feel that they may just like to sit down and talk to other sufferers of PTSD, please feel free to contact me – carol@prodijee.com. I am more than happy to do what I can to set up a small group in a relaxed environment to simply be with people who ‘understand’ – no medical professionals and no need to relive your situation if you don’t want.

To those who have served and are serving our country – We will never forget – I will never forget – our country is forever in your debt.

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They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

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by Carol Sheridan