West Mackay resident Phil Rutherford has a son in the Australian Defence Force. He is pictured here in a World War I uniform at Mackay West State School after giving a presentation to students. Picture: Heidi Petith
West Mackay resident Phil Rutherford has a son in the Australian Defence Force. He is pictured here in a World War I uniform at Mackay West State School after giving a presentation to students. Picture: Heidi Petith

‘He’s going to self-harm. Lock him in a rubber room’

A Mackay father says Australian Defence Force personnel are banding together to prevent their mates from taking their own life as the system falls short.

West Mackay resident Phil Rutherford said while his son had served in mainly peacetime deployments for 11 years as an engineer, he, as well as many in the ADF, had been suicidal.

Mr Rutherford's father-in-law also witnessed four decades of trauma at the frontline as a paramedic. He then left the profession to study psychology so he could help his former co-workers after they attended fatalities.

Their experiences are why Mr Rutherford is backing the Daily Mercury's Hub for our Heroes campaign to build a veterans and first responders centre at Kinchant Dam.

Mackay Daily Mercury has launched a campaign to find a Hub for Our Heroes.
Mackay Daily Mercury has launched a campaign to find a Hub for Our Heroes.

"I think all our emergency services - our police, our ambulance, our fire brigade, our SES - all face some horrible sights in their day-to-day job just as well as on the war zone," Mr Rutherford said.

"It's been a known problem for a quite a while. For suicides, we really should be doing more."

Mr Rutherford said he was grateful a corporal had saved his son from suicidal thoughts when he was 22 years old, but it was just one example of many where comrades had to step up to save their mates from giving in.

More Hub for our Heroes stories:

'You didn't dare ask Dad about the war, it was just taboo'

The tragic cost of serving in the Australian Defence Force

PTSD: 'If we get them in early, they'll be all right'

Mackay backs plans for revived RSL club in town

Daily Mercury launches Hub for our Heroes campaign

Hub for our heroes: Plans to find veterans a home in Mackay

Why Mackay should be home to a revolutionary wellness hub
'We didn't even have PTSD. We used to call it being 'bomb-happy'

He recounted an ADF member who was suicidal after shooting dead an eight-year-old in Afghanistan who was wearing a bomb and approaching a supermarket.

"It was a choice of, 'I had to do it but me as a person, I'm struggling to live with that'," Mr Rutherford explained.

Another ADF member "asked for help" only to be met with a month's wait in a hospital while his mates kept guard 24-7 to keep him alive.

"Now he was at the point where, 'I think I'm going to self harm, I need help', so he automatically gets stepped to, 'He's going to self harm, lock him in a rubber room'," Mr Rutherford said.

He said the ADF transferred him to a private mental unit almost four weeks later so he could return to his wife and young child.

"When (ADF members) struggle, they turn to their mates," Mr Rutherford said.

"The system at the moment is a bit slow on getting them help.

"We should be looking after their mental health.

"Two years ago, I was asked in a school, 'Do soldiers go to heaven?' by a Grade 4 (student).

"I'm not overly religious but I believe in right and wrong so if a soldier can believe that what he has done is right, he should be able to pass on to what he calls heaven.

"But if the soldier doubts himself afterwards, that poor soldier has to live in that turmoil."

NATIONAL 24/7 CRISIS SERVICES

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467

Open Arms: 1800 011 046

MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978

beyondblue: 1300 224 636

Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800

More Hub for our Heroes stories:

'The appreciation of our past is just going to explode'

VC recipient joins battle to develop Kinchant Dam centre

'I'm deeply supportive of both projects': Dawson MP

Sir Peter Cosgrove backs 'continent leading' heroes hub

'I cried privately for days into weeks which turned into months'

HUB FOR OUR HEROES: Kinchant Dam hub will draw tourists

Hub for our Heroes: Number of veterans may never be known

Surf lifesavers to benefit from trauma help at Kinchant Dam

WIN: Temporary hub for our heroes in Mackay CBD

'You don't get that sort of camaraderie anywhere else'

Mackay GP, veteran throws support behind Kinchant Dam centre



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