In this episode of GET REAL we meet Robert “Bob” Macpherson, a veteran who served in the United States Marines for 20 years, serving in three conflicts in Vietnam, Iraq, and Somalia.  

 After retiring from the Marines, he joined the humanitarian organisation CARE, where he spent fifteen years directing global risk mitigation for staff and vulnerable populations and led humanitarian response missions worldwide, including Rwanda, Haiti and Afghanistan.  

 For Bob, the cumulative effect of all these experiences resulted in being diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder.  

 Bob has detailed the experiences of aid workers he has met and worked with in a book called Stewards of Humanity: Lighting the Darkness in Humanitarian Crisis.  

 Bob feels strongly about the need for education around the experiences of humanitarian aid workers, and providing mental health support for them. His first encounter with humanitarian agencies, also known as Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) was when he was a Marine in Somalia. 

 “At first, I thought they were crazy, running around Somalia with no weapons and here we were armed to the teeth. The more I watched them and the more I got to know them, I began to truly appreciate who they were and what they were doing,” Bob reflects. 

Bob says his book is an attempt to recognise the sacrifices of women and men who quietly work in terrible situations for the sole reason to help others.  

Part of Bob’s journey with PTSD is the help of someone special – his service dog, a Golden Labrador called Blue.  

Blue has helped Bob accept his PTSD and manage it day to day: “Blue has helped me get out of my shell a bit. Because he is like a magnet for people. He just looks happy. He is happy”.

Bob wrote a story about Blue for Reader’s Digest magazine’s America’s Best Pet Pals and it was chosen as the winner in the “Lifesaver” category. Read: How Blue, the Big Yella Fella, Helped Turned This Veteran’s Life Around 

You can find out more about Bob at his website and follow Blue on Instagram

CONTENT NOTE: If you’ve been affected by anything you’ve heard in this episode you can phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or go to www.lifeline.org.au 

ermha365 provides a range of mental health services designed to help people experiencing mental health challenges to thrive in the community. 

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Originally published as Episode 43: Lived Experience (Part 14) Robert Macpherson – PTSD in humanitarian Aid workers at Get Real: Talking mental health & disability

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