Breaking the Stigma surrounding our veterans - Adam's Story

Tell us a bit about yourself: 

My name is Adam Jessep and I'm 46 years old. I am married with two teenage children and live in Adelaide, South Australia. 

What are you up to these days?

I am completing my PhD, which is a multivalent examination of violent religious extremism, specifically through the lenses of theology and psychoanalysis. I also engage in sessional lecturing and learning design on a casual basis.

What's your background (military service, deployment experience if any, career highlights)? 

I joined the Australian Regular Army in January 2001 as a Specialist Service Officer in the Royal Australian Army Educational Corps. Before joining, I had taught in high schools in both London and Sydney. In the Army I specialised as a literacy and numeracy instructor, and in instructional design, eLearning and TESOL. In 2005 I deployed briefly to Iraq as part of a small team that made a training DVD for the second rotation of the Al Muthanna Training Group.

While only a short deployment, it was a fairly big deal at the time because education officers rarely deployed back then. I’m very proud of the work our team was able to accomplish in a very tight timeframe and the potential significance of it.

However, my career highlight would have to be my final posting as the Australian Language Advisor to both the Thai and Cambodian armed forces. Not only was that posting an enormous adventure for me and my family, there were several professional successes that I was able to progress in support of the Defence sections in both the Bangkok and Phnom Penh embassies. At the end of the posting I was privileged to be awarded the Royal Order of Sahametrei (Chevalier) from the Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Following that posting, I discharged in January 2010.

As a Veteran have you faced any personal or professional challenges since transitioning from the Australian Defence Force? 

Of course. Transitioning to civilian life is not without its challenges. I know of other veterans who seem to do it successfully and easily, but many of those people transition to employment in defence-related fields, and there is a certain ‘comfort zone’ in that. It took me a little while to find a job, and I was very frustrated for the first year or so after discharging. There was much uncertainty about my future, providing for my family, plus I had a few unresolved issues and tensions from my time in the Army (one posting in particular left me quite embittered and angry). In time, however, these were resolved, and I’m glad for the experiences I have had since discharging.

For the most part, the Army and I were in something of a ‘love-hate’ relationship throughout our time together, but I look back with fondness (mostly) on my service. Ultimately, it gave me a lot more than I gave it, and I’m grateful to have served for nine years. As for university, I didn’t have any issues academically, because I had a fair bit of experience with tertiary education before I joined the Army.

What do you wish the general public were more aware of about Veterans?

Without wishing to denigrate those veterans who are suffering from PTSD and depression as a result of their service, I am concerned that much of the public dialogue concerning veterans’ issues does centre upon these two issues alone. While there’s no question that it’s important to recognise that veterans are twice as likely to suffer PTSD than the general public, we also need to ensure that that’s not the only story that is being conveyed.

According to the DVA’s figures, between 5 and 20 percent of veterans are affected by PTSD and depression. Now while that’s a lot of people, it’s also not the reality of life for the vast majority of veterans. I think we do a great disservice to ourselves, our colleagues, and future veterans if we get to a point that the public in general (never forget that almost 99 percent of the Australian population have no experience of military service) and potential employers associate these illnesses with veterans before the many other positive characteristics that veterans bring with them to civilian employment.

It’s important then to project different aspects of what being a veteran represents, while at the same time ensuring that veterans who are suffering from illnesses such as PTSD and depression are properly supported.

As the saying goes, it is possible to walk and chew gum at the same time.

If you are struggling and feel you need to speak up, check out our Get Help page for organisations that can help.  If you would like more information about the work of ASVA, click here to check out their website