Support is available for troops with PTSD

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Josh Pennell
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Cpl. Jamie MacWhirter still dealing with his own combat experiences; still fighting his own battle

A local soldier who survived seven months in Afghanistan and has been battling Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for years thinks there is enough support for soldiers who come back from active duty, but it’s up to the soldier to seek it out.

Cpl. Jamie MacWhirter with his family: 12-year-old son Avery (left), five-year-old son Cody (centre right) and his wife Vanessa, at home in Goulds. The Afghan veteran — who wrote a book about his experiences — says there is support for troops facing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder if they seek it out.  He sought help and continues to fight his own PTSD.
— File photo by Paul Daly/The Canadian Press

Cpl. Jamie MacWhirter drove a refueller carrying 10,000 litres of diesel during his time in Afghanistan. Once, his truck was hit with a rocket propelled grenade.

“The only reason I survived it is because it hit the wheel well of the truck,” he says. “We actually saw the tire that was hit fly by the front of our windshield and roll to the front on fire.”

The machine gun bullets hitting the truck sounded like hail, he adds.

On another occasion, a rocket missed the top of his truck by mere feet.

He watched a suicide bomber kill 10 children.

“When you get back, everyone tells you you’ve changed and you’re not the same person,” says MacWhirter.

He’s been living with PTSD for years now, a condition that has suddenly gotten a lot more light shed on it since four Canadian soldiers committed suicide within a week.  Those deaths have resulted in many people lobbying government to provide more support for veterans.

“I’ve been in that dark area where you feel like killing yourself,” says MacWhirter.

His PTSD manifests itself in anger.

“That’s my PTSD. I’m not afraid. I get angry,” he says. “When I’m triggered, I want to hurt you emotionally.”

While MacWhirter has been receiving help for his PTSD, it’s hardly a thing of his past.

“Even two days ago I lost control and I lost it on my family,” he says.

Despite this, MacWhirter thinks there is plenty of help out there for soldiers.

“I think the military is doing all it can to help.”

MacWhirter puts a lot of the onus on the soldier.

“I’ve learned myself that it’s up to the soldier,” he says.

Somebody who suspects they may have PTSD has to get tested and if it turns out they do have the disorder, then they have to get out and get the help, says MacWhirter.

“I think every soldier needs to realize that it’s OK. It’s OK to admit that you have anger issues. It’s OK to admit that you have a problem.”

MacWhirter found therapy in writing about his condition. The memoir became a published book, “A Soldier’s Tale: A Newfoundland Soldier in Afghanistan.”

He wasn’t the same person when he came back from Afghanistan he says, but he also isn’t the same person now as when he arrived back home. He’s improved. The more he understands his PTSD, the more he can control it.

“That’s what soldiers need to do,” he says.

Unfortunately, not every soldier manages and that’s where the controversy arises over whether there is enough support for soldiers with PTSD.

 

josh.pennell@thetelegram.com

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  • Sean Connors
    December 07, 2013 - 14:55

    As a soldier and Afghan vet I am disappointed with some of the views and comments made in this story. But made for a good plug for his book.....which was probably the aim!!

  • WInston
    December 07, 2013 - 09:24

    I have read that there are unfilled positions in the miliary for specialitists for PTSD. So is there plenty of services. And how many get sufficient support from family and friends? I have PTSD, though not from military actavity. There is a lot of stigma. And I am not impressed with the medical attention I have received. I suggest you read the piece in today Telegram by Lisa Tucker to see the typical state of mental health services. I applaud your speaking out, but you put too much blame on others for not seeking help. I guess you are one of the few fortunate ones to feel there is adequate services.