Hamilton CFA firefighter, Peter Green experienced post traumatic stress and a conversion disorder which was triggered after responding to the scene of a fatal car accident.
With treatment, Peter has found ways to process and cope with his trauma.
His message is simple - don't suffer in silence. It doesn't matter who you are or what you've seen, everyone needs some help from time to time.
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.
For me it’s a lot of haunting flashbacks. The straw that broke the camels back is there was a car vs. truck accident. Fully involved b double. The driver of the four-wheel drive was deceased at the scene.
My name’s Peter Green. I live in Hamilton. I was, am, still, a CFA firefighter but broke down with post-traumatic stress in 2016. And this is my story.
I joined CFA when I lived in Melbourne when I was 16. So, I joined with my dad and he joined just after Ash Wednesday in 83’. I suppose you don’t really contemplate what’s gonna come, because you sort of go ‘oh yeah I’m going to deal with fires’.
I was 16 when I saw my first fatal car accident. It wasn’t because we chose to put me there. It was just there was three guys to get on the truck and I was one of them.
I got referred to a GP here who specialises in men’s health and mental health. He spoke to me for about five minutes and said ‘Yep. It’s post-traumatic stress’. And explained to me that I have what’s largely called a conversion disorder.
I ended up feeling like I’d lost complete sensation of touch, smell. Hearing was partially affected as well down the right-hand side of my body. Its depression. Its anxiety. Its nightmares, night sweats, night terrors. The morphing of loved ones into it and them being the victims of it.
To be honest it’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever dealt with and I’ve seen some pretty scary things. You know, I’ve been three lengths into a burning shop or a burning house or facing major bushfires or whatever. They’re pretty daunting things but they pale into insignificance when you haven’t got control over everything that’s going on in your head.
I spent the better part of two and a half years travelling backwards and forwards from Hamilton to Melbourne every two weeks for treatment. That put a massive strain on family life and everything else.
It’s one thing to go and speak to a psychologist, it’s another thing to buy in to what they’re doing. I had to relive and work through probably six or seven of the worst incidents that I’ve done.
If I hadn’t of got treatment, I’d be six foot under.
I speak from a firefighter because that’s my background. But it doesn’t matter whether you’re a firefighter or whether you’re someone in the street who has been assaulted or whatever else. Don’t suffer the mental anguish in silence.
Stress and shock is going to take time to process. And there’s nothing wrong with having to sit down the local GP or sit down with a psychologist, or even just a counsellor. Just being able to process those emotions and being able to feel human.