ANDY FERMO | VETERAN | HUSBAND | PTSD SUFFERER
Andy enlisted in the regular Army in 2001 as an Electronic Warfare (EW) operator in Royal Australian Signals Corps, being posted to 7 Sig Regiment in Cabarlah, QLD. In 2006, he was posted to 2CDO (formerly 4RAR (Cdo), Sydney), immediately deploying domestically with TAG-East to support the Melbourne Commonwealth Games.
Having a taste working with the Army’s elite Special Forces elite he applied, and completed the arduous selection process, becoming commando qualified and realising a career goal. Following on were two deployments to Afghanistan on SOTG IV & IX as an Electronic Warfare team leader.
Andy was awarded a Special Forces commendation by Major General Hindmarsh (retired) for his performance on SOTG IV. Believing he’d be in the Army for life, Andy was at the pinnacle of his trade and passionate about his future.
However, Andy refers to the “Trauma triangle” on his second tour. Experiencing a series of traumatic events in close succession, including; witnessing the death of a colleague, surviving the impact of an I.E.D roadside bomb (Improvised Explosive Device) and the major injuries of his colleagues amongst many other traumatic incidences as a mental health “time-bomb” waiting to happen.
Andy was medically discharged in 2010, prematurely ending his career, and later diagnosed with PTSD. This turn of events wasn’t how he thought it’d turn out, and like many veterans without a purpose, Andy struggled daily to find a passion for a life and career outside the Army including becoming a volunteer firefighter with the NSW RFS.
Early in his recovery journey, Andy credits advocate D.C. for teaching him a holistically based navigation roadmap, to persist in connecting with the right specialist and the importance of immediate support to managing his PTSD.
To the present, Andy’s renewed passion for music, adventure, healthy living, emphasis on (immediate) support and social engagement network now play a major role in his self-care plan and post traumatic recovery/growth. It’s this ethos that’s formed much of the framework for Invisible Injuries holistic approach to PTSD and as a mental health ambassador.
CLAIRE FERMO | IMMEDIATE SUPPORT AMBASSADOR | PROJECT OFFICER
The army life and culture was foreign concept when Claire met Andy rock-climbing in 2008. By day, a manager in the Corporate Finance industry and active with her passion as an actress in the performing arts, they were worlds apart.
Claire was thrust into the deep end when Andy deployed on his second tour to Afghanistan. Just as her relationship with Andy was becoming serious she quickly learned what it was like to be the partner of a soldier on high-risk military operations.
Not being on the front-line didn’t mean Claire didn’t live her own trauma and like many of the partners, daily she experienced feelings of uncertainty and anxiousness being fearful that Andy wouldn’t be returning home.
The events in Andy’s “Trauma triangle” only became known to Claire in the official defence statement and others long after they’d occurred, adding to Claire’s “at-home” trauma. A call not received from someone she didn’t know was barely a consolation, instead leaning on the support of the other partners, family, friends and welfare networks. Soon after Andy’s return she knew he wasn’t the same person as the one who’d left. She also felt that the system had failed when Andy was medically discharged and diagnosed with PTSD.
Early on, Claire was open to being an active part of Andy’s recovery plan, participating in several key sessions with his counsellor and mental health specialists. As a couple, they agreed she would call him out when he was having a PTSD moment and he would acknowledge that when she did, to listen and act.
Knowing a lifestyle and location change would be part of Andy’s recovery journey, Claire moved from corporate, becoming an entrepreneur business owner and having the flexibility to be there for him in support.
To the present and being a people person, Claire’s biggest goal with Invisible injuries is to represent what partners/supporter and kids experience when they are close to someone with PTSD. She also believes the experience for the support person and kids is often just as difficult as the sufferer and is an advocate for facilitating the conversation for people in that role.
HELENA CONNOR | IN-PRINT CO-ORDINATOR
Helena is married to a Vietnam Veteran and works in the private sector with clients in the mental health arena. Her qualifications include a Dip in Counselling. Her interests are in functional trauma recovery and neuroscience.
We first met Helena in April 2021 at the launch of The Young Veterans Hub in Gympie. Following on from that was a press release that was submitted to Cooloola News (a free local magazine and well read by the locals at Tin Can Bay Qld.) From co-ordinating that with the RSL and Invisible Injuries, Helena’s role has evolved to our print lady. Copy for Facebook, press releases and summarising our podcasts are the main tasks undertaken.
Coming from a background of sales, mental health and “been around the block a few times” in her words, she has a supportive insight with assisting us to achieve our ultimate goal. That being helpful podcast content to be available “on demand” for you, our audience 24/7.
Anonymously you can scan and listen to how others have pioneered their own healthcare plans then connect to one of the many local organisations waiting to help you on our website to formulate your own way forward.
Natalie Carlyle (Director)
Natalie is a secondary school educator specialising in PDHPE contributing her knowledge and education background as a board director and advisor to our holistically based physical activities and workout programs.
Julie Hall (Director / Financial Officer)
Julie has a background in government, not-for-profit and training development service. She serves dual roles as board director/financial officer and is an advisor to the best practice and delivery of our programs and activities.
Shane & Angelina Saunders
Shane and Angelina are members of the board and the founders of Breathe Me, award winning authors, professional coaches, speakers and hosts of the “Breathing Edge” podcast. Shane and Angelina are advisor/mentors to our holistically based breathing program.
Darwin is a member of the board, veteran and current serving First Responder with a background in the Physical Training (PT industry). He contributes as an advisor to our holistically based physical activities and workout programs.
Kristy is a veteran RAAF legal officer and is dubbed as “Australia’s Leading Divorce and Separation strategist” She is also a multi-award winning lawyer, strategist and bestselling author. Kristy contributes her skillsets and knowledge as our legal advisor.