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There is a tomorrow and there is hope when battling mental illness

'We just need to get out there and get the message out that you are not alone'
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Brent Austin speaks to the military about Mental Health as part of a Bell Let's Talk Day at CFB North Bay. Photo by Chris Dawson

Brent Austin says he has been in a very dark place.   

The longtime military police officer was broken.  He suffered from back injuries as part of his 26 years with the military.  He also was hurting on the inside as well.     

Austin, who had served in violent parts of Afghanistan, felt that his only benefit to his family was his salary.  He thought maybe death benefits through the Canadian Military are high would be the best thing for his family back home.   

“My family will get over it as I thought I wasn’t worth it,” Austin said noting that he lost his father at a young age.    

With help though, Austin is a good news story in the Canadian Military.  Now the 49-year-old is there to help other military personnel struggling with some of the same problems he was able to overcome.   

“It is very important to reach out to these people because this is a whole different society,” stated Austin.  

“We are a tight-knit family but with that can come a lot of stress.”  

Austin, now works as the Operational Stress Injury Social Support, Peer Support Coordinator in the Northeast Region.

He was a guest speaker during a Bell Let’s Talk Day event at CFB North Bay this afternoon.  

He says military personnel are special as they are told to do things other people are not expected to do.

“I have been overseas many times and things happen so for me to go to them and relate to them and say, ‘hey listen I was in your boots.’ I was posted here twice and a lot of the people here know me, the way that I was and the way that I am and it is nice for them to be able to say ‘listen I am hurting right now but there is help available and there is a reason to live tomorrow.”  

Austin admits he was able to come out of his depression with help from the OSISS Peer Support Coordinator who he eventually replaced in 2015.  

“I’ve been many places and there are people that come into my office all the time and they are on their last legs and they just do not see that there is a tomorrow and I have helped them, I have taken them to the hospital. I have gotten them help, I have taken them to veterans affairs to get help and at the end they are very happy because they did not know what was available and I was able to navigate them through the system and they really appreciate it.”  

Austin says hope is key.  

“Absolutely because there is a hope, there is a lot we can do for each other and there is a lot we should to for each other,” he said.  

“We just need to get out there and get the message out that you are not alone.”