THE BROTHER of an Albury policeman who took his own life after a battle with post traumatic stress disorder is helping others in the force who are struggling.
Tony Seccull, 41, followed in the footsteps of his older brother Patrick when he joined NSW Police as a young man.
The father of one lost his battle at his Burrumbuttock property on February 1, leaving a gap in his large family that will always be there.
Patrick, who has also worked as an Albury policeman and has had his own fight with the disorder, said his brother died about five years to the day after his discharge from the force.
By the end of his service, Tony was worn out and just wanted to retire without the grinding stress caused by the police insurance company.
The actions of the police insurer when Tony filed a hurt on duty claim and decided to leave the force were “pretty terrible”, according to his brother.
“He struggled with the pressures, particularly those imposed on him by the police insurance company,” he said.
“The insurance company kept pushing.
“That’s a common theme.”
Despite trying to help, Patrick feels somewhat responsible at the fact the 41-year-old followed his career path.
Tony was one of eight children and grew up in a hard-working family in Mulwala.
“He was 17 years younger than me … he was three years old when I joined the police,” he said.
“As a result, all he ever wanted to do was be a police officer.
“He was such a caring, passionate and loving person.
“I think he probably internalised a lot of his work.
“The emergency services are a very, very tough gig and the people who are sensitive, and internalise, are often the ones who can fall foul of this disease.”
Mr Seccull links his brother’s PTSD to an incident early in his career, the full impact of which didn’t surface until a firearms training course on the Border sometime around 2010.
Tony had been stationed at Nyngan in central NSW in the early 2000s and like many times before, he was called to a domestic dispute.
But it was no ordinary call out, with a farmer firing shots from a high-powered rifle at Tony and his partner, leaving them pinned down.
The memory of the incident – coupled with other dangerous and horrific experiences – resurfaced at the shooting range all those years later and resulted in flashbacks, a mental breakdown and eight weeks of intensive therapy in hospital.
Patrick said the police force has some made positive steps towards helping officers suffering as a result of their work.
When he was an officer from the 1970s to 1990s, the advice was usually for members to have a drink and “harden up”, which was changing.
Patrick said often the first sign of trouble was when someone suffering isolated themselves from loved ones.
He noticed that in his brother.
When he died, Patrick vowed to help others.
There are no concrete statistics on the number of Border emergency service personnel who have taken their own lives, but The Border Mail is aware of three current or former Albury police members dying by suicide since late-2012.
While police feature prominently in suicide statistics, paramedics and firefighters, particularly men aged 30 to 49, also die in high numbers.
A National Coronial Information System report found 110 emergency workers took their own lives from July 2000 to the end of 2012.
An Albury officer who was recently medically discharged from the force after about 15 years of service said his life had fallen apart after a fatal incident.
The officer – who knew Mr Seccull and said he was a "top bloke” – said it was important to raise awareness of PTSD and its impact.
He has battled to rebuild his life and said there had been no support from NSW Police.
“Ultimately I lost my family life, health, friends, house and career due to PTSD resulting from this incident,” he said.
“I've paid an enormous price for just doing my job.
“Now in the wash up I don't even have the job anymore.
“The thing is when you are in the grips of PTSD you don't care about the risks or consequences of your behaviour, so things fall apart very quickly and because people don't understand why you’re acting the way you are, you lose important relationships and support.”
Patrick stressed the important of officers seeking help.
While the Reconnect program can help serving officers, groups like Backup for Life and beyondblue can assist those out of the force.
Albury Superintendent Evan Quarmby said support for officers was improving.
“There are lots of options open to police to get help for themselves and for the NSW police force to provide support,” he said.
“I think there's certainly been an improvement in the way we identify and acknowledge these traumatic events.
“We take the welfare and the support of serving police very seriously.
“We are constantly looking for ways to help them with the difficult things that they’re exposed to and have to see in the course of their duties.”
Patrick joined Reconnect immediately after Tony died in a bid to make a positive out of the tragedy.
“The message is don't suffer in silence,” he said.
"You've got support around you.
“Don't isolate – that's the biggest indicator for the family, when someone starts to isolate.
“I saw Tony isolate more and more.”
He believes his brother, who was married and had a young daughter who were supportive of him, mistakenly believed his actions would stop the "burden” he was placing on those around him.
“That perception was so wrong,” Patrick said.
“We, as a family, would like to make people who suffer this condition very aware that you're not a burden to your family.”
The former Albury prosecutor is missed by many.
A perpetual award in the prosecutions division will carry his name.
“Part of me has gone,” Patrick said.
"He was my little brother, my littlest brother and we were very close.
“We were very, very close and I feel in some ways responsible, because he looked up to me and followed me into an occupation.
“I've got to live with that for the rest of my life.”
Despite his own struggles, Patrick can still see the positives.
“I want to make it very clear that life can be good, and life is good if we get the right support, no matter how bad the illness is” he said.
Those seeking help or information can contact Lifeline on 131 114.