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Richmond collaborates with ABC

Bringing the war home, St John of God Richmond Hospital Richmond collaborates with 4 Corners to raise awareness about PTSD programs for veterans.

For the first time in the history of the program, St John of God Richmond Hospital participated in the production of an ABC TV 4 Corners program which included the filming of select group therapy sessions. The program, Bringing The War Home, was aired nationally on 9 March, focused on the impact of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety and suicide on veterans of the conflict in Afghanistan.

The program focus was the experiences of three military veterans who talk about their personal experience of PTSD, the impact on them and their families, and the different pathways and treatment options they follow.  It’s a unique perspective, a very personal and intimate insight into living with PTSD. 

Also raised is the increasing rate of homelessness and suicide amongst veterans, many of which are not acknowledged with many of those taking their own lives already discharged from service.

From Richmond Hospital’s part, the approach to participate in the documentary was as a result of following one of the veterans profiled. Lee Sarich’s story was the first presented and we follow him from the battle fields of Afghanistan and hear about his journey which includes being assisted by RSL Life Care and eventually being referred to the PTSD program at Richmond Hospital.

The 4 Corners crew worked closely with hospital executives and clinicians to consider the process and implications of filming for the hospital, the veteran and the PTSD group cohort that included a mix of veterans, police and emergency services personnel.

St John of God Richmond Hospital Chief Executive Officer Strephon Billinghurst acknowledged that taking part in the high profile television program had risks and implications, by the nature of the complexity of our work in mental health.

“Yet we recognised the opportunity as we are very excited and proud of our role in educating and raising awareness of PTSD and mental health issues – particularly in the veteran community said Billinghurst.

The 4 Corners program will help to inform and empower people seeking professional support and care, and since airing on 9 March, has stimulated discussion and debate about the state of mental health care and support for veterans.

Bringing the war home SJG Richmond interviewSenior Clinician, Dominic Hilbrink, facilitated the involvement of the television producers, provided guidance on the production and worked with the group participating in the PTSD program. 

“The participants were in control of when the crew was allowed to observe or film group interactions,” Dominic said.

“There were times when the group wanted complete privacy, and that was certainly heeded and respected.”

The collaboration on such a delicate and sensitive subject matter was an enriching, rewarding and learning experience for all involved.

St John of God Richmond Hospital Senior Clinician and PTSD specialist Dominic Hilbrink is interviewed by ABC Journalist Quentin McDermott as part of the 4 Corners “Bringing the war home” program

The experienced 4 Corners crew commented that it was an honour to be allowed to observe such intense and life changing work.

Thankfully, the outcome for the ex-solider profiled, Lee Sarich was a positive one.  At the completion of the PTSD Program, he was able to say that by working closely with his clinician Dominic and the group he was a few steps further along the road to recovery.

Professor Zachary Steel, Trauma Chair for St John of God Richmond Hospital, also provided expert commentary and education for the program which is a great help in defining and understanding anxiety and PTSD.

To view the program Bringing The War Home and an extended version of Professor Steel’s explanation about PTSD, visit the Four Corners’ website http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/.

Useful links
ABC 4 Corners 'Bringing the war home'
St John of God Richmond Hospital Post Traumatic Stress Disorder services
St John of God Richmond Hospital