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'We're all prone to it' - PTSD treatment needs to be improved in NZ, former soldier says

A former soldier wants to see a cross-agency approach to supporting veterans suffering from mental health issues.

The mental health inquiry also looked into the plight of military veterans with mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder. Source: 1 NEWS

Bill Blaikie struggled with PTSD for a decade.

"We're all prone to it and you don’t actually have to be in a combat zone to get it."

He recently travelled to Australia for treatment and took part in a cross-agency support programme.

"My course we had two police, a paramedic, a train driver, and another veteran."

"I would like to see not just NZDF or Veteran’s Affairs leading this, but coming forward and working as a whole of Government approach. Because this effects firemen, ambulance drivers, police, people who have gone through sexual abuse… so the illness is the same so we should have one combined approach to putting trauma therapy in place.”

Defence Minister Ron Mark told 1 NEWS the illness is something close to his heart.

"There are friends of mine who suffer from it and I have a couple of friends… one whose death is really unexplained and the other who didn’t get help.”

"So I've been very critical of how defence has handled this issue in the past," he told 1 NEWS.

The Minister said the issue will be considered in the Government's mental health inquiry. But he says a cross-agency-approach could be looked into further.

"We have a responsibility to look after these people. Whether we do that across the whole of government agency, we will have to have that conversation down the line."

Daryl Burton is another former soldier who has dealt with PTSD, after various health issues including a broken back while serving in Bosnia.

"I joked with my GP, who just happened to be an ex-military guy, that maybe I’ve got PTSD and it’s just all in my mind. And he said 'hmmmm'."

"That was quite confrontational. Even then it took me a little bit of time to come to terms with the fact that this may be happened and maybe I do have this issue," he said.

Both men told 1 NEWS they have a lot of support now and both are involved with the Invictus Games.

They both agree things have come a long way in terms of support and understanding.

NZDF admits it hasn’t handled things as well in the past, but the organisation has taken big steps forward.

NZDF has recently developed its own mental health strategy and is now sharing what its learnt with the Government and the mental health inquiry.

"We will see what comes of Professor Patterson’s review, but we are part of that conversation," Director of Defence Health Brigadier Andy Gray told 1 NEWS.

A conversation that many say needs to keep happening to better support our service men and women.