Barry Heard (Australian Army), Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Barry Heard served in Vietnam in 1967 as a national serviceman. After many years he suffered a breakdown and was diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder. Supported by his family he recovered and wrote a successful book about his life and experiences.

Running time
3 min 2 sec
Copyright
Department of Veterans' Affairs

Transcript

In 1967, Barry Heard served proudly and well as a national serviceman in Vietnam. But what he experienced as an infantryman made him want to forget the war.

"I stay away from everything. Apparently a couple of guys got in touch with my parents and wanted to get in touch with me..."

In 1987 the Welcome Home Parade took pace in Sydney. Barry refused to attend.

"I watched it on television and I could not believe what I saw. I was just stunned that people... Welcome Home? You know, holding up placards and that's when I said to my wife I want to catch up with my mates. I need to see them; I haven't seen them for so long."

He attended his first battalion reunion. It produced mixed feelings.

"It was good and it was bad. It was good to see all the guys again, I'm sure we're all gay; all we want to do is hold one another and cry and hug. It was just beautiful. To see all those guys. But what I ended up with was a book full of addresses and all that sort of thing and then the next three or four years were just bloody hell.

Because things did go downhill rapidly. There were suicides, there were... It was too much I think. Everything was too much."

Barry was diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder. He suffered a complete breakdown and his world crashed.

"Came out of the hospital; not sure when, probably a few weeks; wetting myself and soiling myself and not game to leave the bedroom for a start and then I wasn't game to leave the house, for a long time. About six months I wasn't game to go outside. I was just so frightened of everything. My poor wife. She has to look after me, this dribbling, bloody, fragile, old man. Yeah."

Barry wrote a successful book about his life and it produced a surprising bonus.

"It's brought us together my mates and I, all of us, in a way that's surreal, and that is we've done a lot of fund raising. We've learnt that to give is the best thing to heal our soul and our spirit. We had no idea."

Barry's path back to health was long and painful for him and his family.

"I believe from that whole experience, the things I treasure in my life are so simple: I don't want anything other than a wife "" I've got a beautiful wife, I've got beautiful children; beautiful grandchildren, and that's it."

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