Peter Bellion is a retired Detective Sergeant in the Victoria Police Major Collision Investigation Unit and a chronic post-traumatic stress disorder survivor.
During a decorated career in the force, Peter attended and investigated more than 2000 roadside fatalities.
He now is a passionate advocate for getting early help for people experiencing traumatic events, especially first responders.If you or someone you know needs support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 224 636. In an emergency, call 000.
IMAGES: The front gate of the Victoria Police Training Academy is shown, a church steeple. A class of trainees is doing parade ground drills. Cut to a man, Peter Bellion, sitting on a sofa in a loungeroom, holding a framed photograph of himself as a police academy graduate. Peter is wearing a blue button-up shirt and navy trousers.
“When you graduate out of the academy, you’ve got the uniform on, you know, you’ve got all your equipment, you know, you’re feeling 10 foot tall and bullet-proof, that you can achieve anything.”
IMAGES: A photograph of a class of police graduates is shown, a close-up of a Victoria Police hat and badge, some awards, police sirens can be heard in the background. Peter is shown in the back yard, standing in front of a paling fence. Cuts back to him sitting on the sofa, talking to camera.
“Three weeks out of the academy, 9.30 in the morning, there was a call, an offender’s on.
“I caught a glimpse of somebody disappearing out the back of the house and about to jump, you know, over the fence and standing the other side was a young guy, um (pause), with a shotgun pointing at me.”
IMAGES: An outdoor scene, the sun is shining through some trees, creating a dappled effect. A shot of Peter’s hands, clasped in front of him, and then gently pulling apart, one moving up and down his wrist. He wears a wedding band.
“Around about two years ago, my son bought a car and I was taking him down Warrigal Road near Farm Road. I started getting the shakes and he’s going. ‘Dad are you all right?’ and I said, ‘Uh, I was just having a flashback to when I had my first shotgun pulled on me’.”
IMAGES: Dash-cam from a police car, giving pursuit on a suburban road. Cuts to Peter holding his police hat, looking pensive. Camera pans across a magazine article featuring Peter’s story with accompanying photographs. The headline reads: ‘When the investigator becomes another casualty.’
“These were instances that happened back in 1987. That’s basically the emotions of those events that have been sitting in your body all these years, all of a sudden just start coming out.
IMAGES: Peter is shown sitting in the back yard, staring into the distance. There is a shot of a Blue Ribbon Day police ribbon pinned to his uniform, Peter is shown in shadow, recalling his career. Cuts to a police control centre, a uniformed officer answers a radio call, shots from inside a police car as it drives down a busy urban street, arriving at an emergency scene where there is a fire engine, lights flashing. Police officer walks up the street, a female officer is shown directing traffic.
“Post traumatic stress disorder has been a helluva thing to … it’s a daily fight. I went through a helluva lot. I had a pretty high level of resilience and for the first 20 years didn’t even know anything about it, didn’t think anything about it.
“The last 10 years was very very hard.”
IMAGES: Peter is on the sofa, talking to camera. Old photographs from his time in the Accident Investigation Squad are shown, along with a service award. Cuts to dash cam footage of a police van driving at night through a tunnel. Police attending a street crime, an accident scene.
“I’d first gone into the accident and investigation section in 1990 and so everything’s go, go, go, go, go.
“When the police are called to a road crash, you know, you’ve gotta work out what’s happened, you’ve also then got to rehabilitate that scene. You know you’re seeing first hand people dying in your arms.”
IMAGES: Police service medals are shown. Peter is on the sofa, talking to camera. He has tears in his eyes. Cuts to dash cam footage of police cars attending the scene of an emergency, lights flashing, sirens wailing.
“There was a lot. There were 2000 road fatalities, um, all up, there were 20 police officers deaths, I had the back window of the car taken out at 11.30 at night in the driveway here one night part way through giving evidence in a trial.
“At the end of the day, you’re just a human being, just a number.”
IMAGES: A sports singlet is shown. It has printed on it, #fightingptsdvicpol. Peter is shown sitting on his back porch, feeding a treat to a small dog that is wagging its tail. Cuts back to Peter on the sofa.
“PTSD is like riding a massive wave. The top of the wave is where you’re getting that anxiety or hyper vigilant, hyperactive response from when the job’s going off and then you get to the post-job phase when you’re tired, emotional and worn out. And over time that becomes a depressive stage. So it involves problems with sleep, um, it can involve problems with getting angry. It can involve having difficulties with concentration and attention.”
IMAGES: Peter is in the back garden, hitting golf balls into a net. He is then shown doing some exercise using resistance bands. He is wearing the #fightingptsdvicpol singlet.
“You do get some people, you know, when you start talking about PTSD and what it is that, uh, don’t necessarily believe it. There is that stigma. They’re not with you overnight when you’re getting the shakes.”
IMAGES: Peter is on the sofa, talking to camera. A police car is shown parked on a hilltop roadside, with a view over the coast. It’s windy, there are white caps on the ocean. Cuts to a shot of Peter in his backgarden, looking pensive, then hopeful.
“Untreated, PTSD is a killer. People have got to put their hand up and say, ‘I need help’.
“It can be a real struggle on some days but you know if you get through that day the next day is normally ok. You’ve just got to ride the humps and the bumps and say ok I’ve got through, I’ve had treatment I manage it daily but I’m a survivor.”
IMAGES: The screen fades to white. Writing appears which says ‘It’s Time to Talk about Mental Health’.
Better Health Channel #timetotalkvic