War veterans' partners are not alone

When Kerryn McDonnell and Sam Cross meet partners of troubled war veterans, perhaps their most important piece of advice is the simplest.

You are not alone. We are here for you. And they offer a hug.

Mrs McDonnell, the secretary of Partners of Veterans Association WA Inc, and Mrs Cross, the president, are both married to Vietnam veterans, and they practise what they preach.

"The first thing we do when we walk into the office is everyone gets a hug," Mrs McDonnell said.

The women said one of the signs that a veteran struggling with returning to everyday life could display was to withdraw.

They had met many veterans' partners who told them of problems but the biggest issue was post-traumatic stress disorder.

It could be as simple as being irritable and edgy, sleepless nights or night sweats. Or sitting against the wall at a restaurant so everybody was visible.

Or not being able to go to family gatherings. The organisation, set up in 2003, offers information, education, practical advice and lobbies strongly for their cause.

This has included successfully lobbying State Parliament to recognise the last Friday in May as PTSD awareness day.

Tomorrow the organisation will run an information stand in Murray Street mall.

The women warned that the recent years of Australian Defence Force commitments around the world would lead to a wave of PTSD cases in years to come.

And to the partners of the veterans yet to confront the struggle, their message is simple. "We will say don't walk in our shoes, walk with us and hold our hand," Mrs Cross said.

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