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'Walking to save people's lives' - post-traumatic stress sufferers embark on gruelling Canterbury trek

A group of men and women who have battled with post-traumatic stress have begun a challenging trek to raise awareness of the condition.

They’re traversing the remote, 111km Rainbow Station in North Canterbury – which starts near St Arnaud and ends at Hanmer Springs - on horseback and on foot, alongside supporters.

Riders traverse the remote Rainbow Station Source: Supplied

"Quite a lot of us who are on this trip have post traumatic stress and what we're doing is we're standing by each other," explains co-organiser Bernard Shapiro.

Many participants are also wearing military uniform in recognition of World War One soldiers who suffered from their experiences.

The walk is an initiative of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Charitable Trust, with sponsorship from Ryman Healthcare.

Walkers, dressed in period uniform, on day two of the seven day trek. Source: Supplied

"We've called this 'The Long Road Home' because PTSI (Post Traumatic Stress Injury) is a hell of a long road, it's not a quick fix," says NZMRCT President Mark Appleton.

Mary Harborne served in both the British and New Zealand army. But it's The First Gulf War she'll never forget.

"I was having really bad flashbacks and I didn't know why. I was seeing the people. all the dead people," she told 1 NEWS.

"The one thing that I find really difficult is when I'm out walking or I'm out riding and I get that smell. And it takes me right back again, no matter all these years later."

The campaign isn’t just to better support those in the military, but anyone who has experienced trauma.

"It’s rape victims, home invasion, car crashes, child molestation. It's just horrendous the amount of people who are suffering from PTSI," says Mr Appleton.

Although the group is encouraging people to speak up about their struggles, Mr Appleton says "the rest of society" has a responsibility to kill the stigma surrounding the condition.

"What it requires is a little human kindness towards these people who have PTSI and just to understand that they are struggling."

For some, the walk is a new beginning.

"It’s given me back a bit of life that I've lost. I'm walking to save people's lives. I wish somebody had done that before," says Mrs Harborne.

It’s hoped The Long Road Home will become an annual event and held in different parts of the country.

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They’re traversing the remote 111km Rainbow Station in North Canterbury. Source: 1 NEWS