Keeping the lines of communication open
Sergeant Samantha Syron has experienced first-hand the effects of someone who lives with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and is on a mission to keep the conversation open about good mental health practices this Mother’s Day.
She grew up in a rural area in Alligator Creek which is south of Townsville and her dad still lives in their family home.
The Queenslander now lives with her husband, Bob, two children, Harvey, 20, and Conor, 17, in Gawler, South Australia.
While mothers around the nation have been homeschooling and working from home adding further stress to their daily routine, Sergeant Syron knows all too well the impact poor mental health can have on the family unit during such testing and isolating times.
“I was born into the military lifestyle with my pa, uncle and dad in the Army,” Sergeant Syron said.
“Dad is a Vietnam veteran and served in the Army for 20 years. He too suffered at the hands of PTSD which wasn’t openly discussed or diagnosed back then.
“Then I met my husband at the age of 19 and two years after we met he was diagnosed with PTSD resulting from his deployment to Rwanda in 1995.
“I soon discovered that being a child of a Vietnam veteran was preparing me for my role as a wife of a Rwandan veteran.
“Through these experiences, I realised talking about mental health with my two boys, husband, with my friends and work colleagues has become one of my biggest passions and an important part of the healing process.”
In 2017, Sergeant Syron began her journey to share her experiences with the Air Force community and was given an opportunity to speak at RAAF Edinburgh Women Integrated Networking Group (WINGs) about ‘Living as a family with PTSD’.
“I remember several women coming up to me after the presentation and expressing relief that they weren’t alone,” Sergeant Syron said.
“Since then, I’ve been asked to speak at several Squadron Safety Days at RAAF Base Edinburgh talking about my experiences and encouraging people to keep the conversation going.
“I have also been fortunate enough to attend two Department of Veterans Affairs Female Families and Veterans Forums in Canberra to help Department of Veteran Affairs shape their new policies.
“I was also invited to attend the ‘Women United’ by Defence dinner held at Parliament house in 2019 which was an amazing experience.
“These opportunities allowed me to keep the conversation going and extend my networks.”
The Personnel Capability Specialist’s nurturing nature has seen her fulfil people-focused roles throughout her military career and supporting personnel on many exercises and operations including Operation Resolute (2009), Operation Slipper (2010), Operation Slipper (2013/14), Operation Saville (2017) and Operation Argos Support (2018).
“Being a mother in uniform is the best job I have ever had,” Sergeant Syron said.
“I’ve had many memorable career moments working with some amazing people at each units and deployments.
“My most challenging moment would have to be my last deployment on Operation Slipper where my training and deployment meant I was away from my family for 10 months.
“This was extremely challenging for my husband who lives with PTSD and especially for my two boys who were 10 and 13 years of age at the time.
“We work really well as a family unit and when we’re away from one another for an extended period of time our little unit starts to feel the pressure. This deployment allowed me to reflect on what my priorities in work and life were so I could balance them accordingly.”
Her advice to mothers who are deployed on Mother’s Day or working from home with children during COVID-19 is to look after ‘YOU’ first.
“Take time for yourself even if it is a walk around the block or a quiet moment of reflection with your tea/coffee,” Sergeant Syron said.
“You need to be in the best mental health shape as possible. More importantly, know when you need help and seek that help sooner rather than later.
“This year I will spend Mother’s Day at home with my boys having dinner together, no doubt with me reminding them of their table manners and making sure there are no mobile phones at the table. I can’t wait!”