Innaloo Veteran putting mental health in the front line

Veteran Andrew Belbin with Innaloo Sports Club manager Paul Stinson.        d462263
Veteran Andrew Belbin with Innaloo Sports Club manager Paul Stinson.        d462263

FOR veteran Andrew Belbin, facing civilian life after Air Force service in Cambodia during the 1990s has been a difficult journey.

Mr Belbin said veterans struggled with assimilating into civilian life and making a fresh start, with mental health issues at the forefront.

“There’s a feeling that when you take off that uniform, you lose that identity that was such a big part of you and then it’s difficult to know where to go from there,” he said.

“Front-line services, including police and emergency service work can be very horrific and you really blank that out in order to protect people around you; it’s hard to talk about it with anyone.

“Veteran suicide rates are quite a lot higher; our suicide rates are higher than the people that we’ve lost in Afghanistan.”

Mr Belbin was awarded an Australia Day honour in 1994 for his service and has joined forces with not-for-profit veterans support service Soldier On to host a fundraiser at Innaloo Sportsmens Club.

“I was about 22 when I first joined, but most people join straight out of high school, so when I did my training I was one of the oldest in my group,” he said.

“You come out of three months training, you then go away and do training and six months later I was walking on Cambodian soil.

“On exiting the military, there are a lot of things that bubble up.”

A Soldier On barbecue will be held on Saturday, November 26, 11am-3pm, at Innaloo Sportsmens Club, 75 Birdwood Street, Innaloo.