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Back From the Brink – John’s Story.

John worked as a police officer for 15 years before stepping away to focus on his mental health. It was a job with significant ups and downs. Though he loved the camaraderie with his colleagues and the feeling of being able to help people, he explains that when you first start, you’re switched off to the reality of some of the work. It’s an exciting lifestyle, but eventually it starts to build up and take a toll.

John reflected in the side mirror of his car as he drives across a paddock

He responded to an accident where a woman was trapped in a burning vehicle, and though John extinguished the fire, he was ultimately too late to save her life. The incident haunted him. He took to driving past the scene of the accident regularly, often stopping to get out and walk around. He describes it as one of his “silly ways of dealing with it,” unable to properly express his trauma. On one occasion he found the woman’s burnt watch, which he still has.

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One in five Australian police officers is at risk of developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It wasn’t something John was familiar with until he saw a colleague’s struggle, but he describes his own experience of how the depression kicked in and he was upset all the time, and often extremely angry. The negativity festered into uncontrollable suicidal thoughts. On a day when his wife had left for work, John decided he was going to end his own life. It was only when his youngest daughter came out and asked what he was doing that he “snapped out of it.”

There was a lot of uncertainty when he left the force. His mortgage, responsibility to his family, and people to look after all weighed heavily on John. He redeveloped strong connections with people around him. He explains the benefits of good colleagues, his psychologist, and his solicitor along the way. Law Partners came highly recommended by someone he had worked with, and John had an equally meaningful experience.

John's story

I was forced to watch her die

Former policeman John, opens up about the day that changed the course of his life and his brave journey to overcome the mental demons that have haunted him ever since …

“The impact of Chantille, from the first time, it was just genuinely nice support,” says John. “She has empathy, she tries to understand where you’re coming from, and she cares. I felt like everything was in good hands, it was something I didn’t have to worry about.” The impact of Law Partners has assisted John with his recovery, and with restarting his life.

John now lives out on a sheep farm and relishes how it keeps him busy. He found the light at the end of a very long tunnel and is now managing his triggers and finding satisfaction in his new work. He still experiences loneliness, but he loves spending time with his dogs and his family and now looks forward to possibly having some grandkids down the track.

If you or a loved one is experiencing emotional distress, help is available. You can reach Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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