Brad Schafer, Darren Hayes and Daniel Ansett from Ply Fitness.
Brad Schafer, Darren Hayes and Daniel Ansett from Ply Fitness. Patrick Woods

The young Coast veterans defying high suicide rates

AUSTRALIAN Defence Force veterans are coming out of active service with more scars than they bargained for.

The physical ones often are decorated, worn like a badge of honour where the mental ones go unseen.

An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2017 report shows that former members of the ADF are battling suicide rates, higher than the general population.

But a group of Sunshine Coast veterans are fighting back - taking on the veteran's statistics head on.

 

Daniel Ansett from Ply Fitness.
Daniel Ansett from Ply Fitness. Patrick Woods

By exercising both their bodies and minds, Young Veterans Lifting Group, who operate out of Play Fitness in Warana, is saving lives.

They meet twice a week, with those who attend coming away with a sense of mateship, routine and purpose - all traits crucial to the ADF.

Brad Schafer and Daniel Ansett started the group in February and it has "substantially" grown to 20 plus members.

 

Brad Schafer, Darren Hayes and Daniel Ansett from Ply Fitness.
Brad Schafer, Darren Hayes and Daniel Ansett from Ply Fitness. Patrick Woods

"We all found there wasn't enough being done to support young veterans or enough activities for them to do with like-minded people," Mr Schafer said.

"It's gone from a life in the defence force where you lace up your boots with purpose, to getting out and struggling with mental health.

"Some of these blokes would just sit in their sheds all day and lose all social aspect but now they're messaging us when the next session is.

"And if one of the blokes stops showing up, it gives us a reason to ask why."

 

Darren Hayes from Ply Fitness.
Darren Hayes from Ply Fitness. Patrick Woods

Darren Hayes is one to benefit from the sessions.

He says he was lucky to initially find life post-service to be a breeze.

But for the past 14 months - issues from his service days - saw him battle severe depression.

"I've been out of the army since 2004 and I had an easy transition out because I had a goal of becoming a builder," the 39-year-old said.

"But I found the hardest thing was the camaraderie I missed. You don't make mates in the army, you make brothers and sisters.

"I've had a hard trot for the past 14 months, hit depression stemming from being in the army.

"This is a distraction and just makes you feel better. You're going out and doing things, not sitting at home feeling sorry for yourself."

 

Brad Schafer from Ply Fitness.
Brad Schafer from Ply Fitness. Patrick Woods

Daniel Ansett is another who came home from service with a string of physical and mental injuries.

But in hindsight his worst, an ACL knee injury, actually started his road to recovery.

"My knee made me realise I wasn't invincible and made me wake up to that I was doing it tough," the East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan veteran said.

"I spent 15 years in the army and two days in a transition course. You aren't prepared for the outside world.

 

Daniel Ansett from Ply Fitness.
Daniel Ansett from Ply Fitness. Patrick Woods

"We don't speak the language. The brotherhood is gone.

"We lose twice as many people to suicide Australia than the front lines. That's why we started this.

"One of the hardest things to do is pick up the phone and ask for help. But it gets better."

Already, the phone has rung, and not just once.

If you or someone you love is in crisis or needs support right now, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or BeyondBlue on 1300 224 636. If it is an emergency please call 000.



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