Home' Army News : February 23rd 2017 Contents “
February 23, 2017
Cpl Mark Doran
ON SEPTEMBER 23, 2011,
the Bushmaster commanded by
Cpl Chris May struck an IED in a
remote valley north of Tarin Kot
in southern Afghanistan.
He was deployed with Mentoring
Task Force 3 and was on his second
tour in Uruzgan.
Among his injuries was a trau-
matic brain injury and Cpl May
was temporarily paralysed from
the waist down from damage to his
He was evacuated to Kandahar
on a US Army Black Hawk and
returned to Australia for his recov-
ery in October, where he was diag-
nosed with PTSD.
Cpl May said he was also diag-
nosed with anxiety and depression.
“My story is not uncommon,”
“I have friends who have been
abused, shot or lost limbs or, like
me, have been wounded by bombs
buried in the ground and, just like
many Australian servicemen and
women, I was diagnosed with
“I have good days and I have
bad days. I watched my mother,
who had two of her four sons join
the Army and deploy to the Middle
East, burst into tears after one of my
bad days saying, ‘I gave my boys
to the Army and they haven’t come
This tale is echoed in many fami-
lies across Australia that are con-
cerned for their loved ones who
have experienced traumatic events.
Cpl May said for many veterans
a day without a bad thought or a
stress reaction came with luck.
“But PTSD only needs enough
luck to come into your day once,
then the day is completely ruined,”
he said. “In 2015, after many
trials, treatments and visits to the
Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, I
was referred to a psychologist who
did prolonged exposure therapy.
“It was one-on-one so very
comforting, because crowds and
other judging eyes made me mask
my real self.
“At first the therapy was daunt-
ing, but I felt a weight removed
from my shoulders after the first
session. I realised this was the
beginning of the rest of my life.”
Cpl May said the treatment dur-
ing prolonged exposure therapy
began with him telling his story.
“I recorded everything I could
remember. It didn’t matter if I didn’t
remember at the time, because it
all eventually came back to me,” he
“My ‘homework’ set by the psy-
chologist was to listen to my story
and focus on the way my body
“I would feel myself get warm,
my face would become flushed, my
legs would start shaking and my
hands would tremble.
“From these signs I was able
to identify what part of my story
caused the reaction and made me
feel that way.
“By listening to my story as an
outsider I found what my triggers
Cpl May said he identified and
explored the moments of traumat-
ic exposure through self-reflection
and mental health awareness, which
helped him overcome the stress
reactions associated with PTSD.
“Initially, it was a challenge to
tell my story because I needed to
really think about it and define the
disturbing moments,” he said.
“It turned out the IED strike
wasn’t my most traumatic moment
it was actually the helicopter
“Sitting in the back of the Black
Hawk, wearing a neck brace, think-
ing I would never walk again, was
my main ongoing stressor.
“I discovered I also had trau-
matic experiences from my first
deployment to Afghanistan I needed
Cpl May said he reminded him-
self at each session it wasn’t just
“It was for my family and my
loved ones because they too had suf-
fered at the hands of my PTSD,” he
“After each session it became
easier, my words flowed more free-
ly and more information about my
traumatic experiences came to the
“It was all part of the heal-
ing process as the deep, dark stuff
came to light and was able to be
addressed. For me, prolonged expo-
sure therapy was effective.”
Cpl May said his advice to cur-
rent members and veterans was if
they needed help to speak up.
“It’s important to get the help
you deserve and need, not just for
yourself, but for your mothers,
fathers and the rest of your family
and loved ones, who are all deeply
concerned about you,” he said.
“We see too many relationship
breakdowns as a result of PTSD and
associated anxiety and depression
because some people hide them-
selves in their careers.
“Just because they are wearing a
uniform does not always mean they
are mentally okay, especially when
they take off the uniform and it all
falls to pieces.”
Committed to tackling post-traumatic stress
‘I realised this was the beginning of the rest of my life’
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At first the therapy
but I felt a weight
removed from my
the first session.
Cpl Chris May,
School of Armour
Cpl Chris May, of the School of Armour, discusses the Rapid Exposure
Supporting Trauma Recovery (RESTORE) trial at the official launch in
Melbourne on February 3. Cpl May was diagnosed with PTSD in 2011 after
his Bushmaster was hit by an IED in Afghanistan and says the RESTORE
program has significantly helped his recovery.
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