Ron Mark says his rehabilitation after army service was 'pathetic'

Defence Minister Ron Mark has opened up about his "pathetic" rehabilitation after returning from service, which left him afraid to return to work.

It comes after Victoria Cross recipient Willie Apiata opened up about his own post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experience with Newshub's Mike McRoberts.

He and his partner Jen Martin have launched an organisation, Post Transition, which aims to support former service personnel.

Upon leaving the New Zealand Army in 1985, Mr Mark says he only received a few days rehabilitation training which he says was 'pathetic'.

"There was nothing.

"People often underestimate what peace-keeping is about and what people have to do. You can't unsee what you've seen. You can't un-feel what you've felt."

Mr Mark says returning to employment was a daunting prospect.

"You know something that may surprise people? I've only ever done one job interview in my life. Just one.

"And that's because I didn't like what happened, and so I became self-employed."

But he says while the impacts on former personnel are real and widely-accepted, it's hard to measure.

"If someone self-harms or commits suicide in the military, we know and that's recorded. But if they've left the military, and they left the military some time ago, they just become another health statistic.

"Military people by their very nature are massively reluctant to bare themselves. But it's years later when they visit it in their head it manifests itself in behaviour nobody understands."

That was Mr Apiata's reality, whose time in the Defence Force came back to haunt him.

"The tragedy, things torn in front of you, the horrors. Even for the incident that I was a part of, I will never forget that. It will live with me until I die," Mr Apiata told Mike McRoberts.

Despite receiving a Victoria Cross award for bravery, Mr Apiata says opening up about it is one of the hardest things he's ever done.

But Mr Mark says that's why it's so important.

"Willie of all people, standing up and saying, I have issues, that sends a really good message out to others.

"And if he can, maybe you can too. Maybe you shouldn't feel ashamed or stigmatised or weak just for putting your hand up."

Mr Mark has thrown his "full support" behind Post Transition, and is currently waiting on NZDF to "report back on the work they're currently doing".


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