Mental Health, Injury and Transitioning from the Military

After serving in the military for nine years, Nathan Whittington talks about embracing the world outside with Open Arms.

Nathan Whittington’s experience in the military was different from most. Only a few months after he enlisted with the Australian Army, a water ski accident rendered him a below-knee amputation. This event dramatically changed Nathan’s life and his service.

“My goal was to spend a lifetime in the army and keep going down that Special Forces world as every young soldier dreams of. And to have it all taken away quite abruptly messed with me a little bit”

“I essentially had all my eggs in one basket, all I ever wanted to do was army and deploy and that had just been taken away quite abruptly. It threw me because I didn’t really know what to do, I didn’t know what I was able to do.”

Despite this life-altering event changing his aspirations, Nathan was able to find solace in his peers as well as in sports and physical activity.

“I was eighteen at the time and I had just lost my leg, so I was pretty lost. It wasn’t until I found sport and that sort of stuff that I changed my mindset towards everything.”

Nathan Whittington - competing

“Physical activity, not necessarily sport, has been a massive thing for me, especially being an amputee. It’s one of the few things where I get to feel normal again, going to the gym or doing some form of exercise.”

With the support of his peers, Nathan went on to enjoy a further nine years in the military. However, when he discharged and entered the civilian world, he found himself entering a dark place mentally.

“It wasn’t until I discharged, where I really struggled with transitioning from military life into civvy.”

“I was pretty good whilst I had was with my military friends or whatever, however when I got back home that’s when I really went down some dark paths.”

Nathan asked around his friends who had also transitioned out of the military and ended up seeking professional help for his mental health through Open Arms. By accessing Open Arm’s counselling services, Nathan was able to get the help and support that he needed.

“It wasn’t until I rang Open Arms and got some support through them, who I currently see on a regular basis, that things were made a lot better.”

Nathan has since opened his own personal training practice and participated in the 2018 Invictus Games. He keeps in touch with his colleagues, many of which have also transitioned and has become an advocate for Open Arms, looking to help people like himself.

“The best thing I ever did was make that phone call and reach out, just to have somebody to talk to.”

“We try and suppress our emotions, we think it’s weak to speak out and whatever else but you’ve got two options, you can go down a dark path and take your own life or you can speak up and genuinely live your life and be around the people who truly care about you”

If you’re a current or former serving ADF member or come from a military family and need to talk, Open Arms is available 24/7 on 1800 011 046.