An ex-soldier is travelling the length of New Zealand to raise awareness and funds for mental health services.
Blair Benefield, 32, began in February on a 3,000 km journey starting on the southern tip of Stewart Island. He will continue the journey up to Cape Reinga on his self-made longboard.
Mr Benefield, now based in Mount Maunganui, spent a six month rotation in Afghanistan before becoming a Lance Corporal.
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Mr Benefield told The Long Lunch’s Wendyl Nissen that living alongside dangers like roadside bombs or potential ambushes made the transition back to New Zealand difficult.
PTSD began to set in after a tragic accident occurred during a training activity. One of his soldiers was killed in an accident.
“It affected me quite heavily. As a commander, you want to keep your soldiers safe,” he told RadioLIVE.
“I felt like a failure. The experience was very traumatic.”
After addiction to synthetics, he was then discharged for PTSD and severe depression four years ago.
“It is hard transitioning from military to civilian life.”
His 3,000 km Ride Against Depression (RAD) is set to raise funds for No Duff Charitable Trust, Youthline Auckland, and Good Neighbour Trust. He also wants the ride to raise general awareness for mental health and suicide prevention, particularly for Kiwi youths.
Mr Benefield cites a stigma built up around mental illness and depression when he was a teenager, which is something he wants to see changed.
“The more we can make this more normalised, then people will see that it’s just a common illness.”
Where to find help and support:
Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737
Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
Samaritans - 0800 726 666
Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
- Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
If you wish to donate to Blair Benefield’s Ride Against Depression, visit his Givealittle page here.
The Long Lunch with Wendyl Nissen, 12pm - 3pm on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.