Nicole & Jon's Story

In February 2015 Jon came home from his shift as a frontline Police Officer. He wasn’t himself. Something was very wrong. Little did we know that from that day on, our lives would never the same.

Despite never experiencing anxiety before, he developed an intense nervousness before going to work. He took some time off, went to the doctor, tried to rest, but within five months his police career of nearly 14 years was over. 

It was an incredibly difficult time when Jon left the police. He didn’t want to leave, and he felt like he was letting his family down, but it was clear he could no longer work as a police officer.

We tried to move forward as a family, buying a franchise and focusing on a different future. However, Jon’s mind was plagued with intrusive memories, vivid nightmares, hypervigilance. He was always shaking, completely exhausted, but he couldn’t sleep.

In February 2018, nearly three years to the day, Jon was officially diagnosed with ‘full-blown PTSD’.

In March Jon walked out of our business and never went back. We eventually sold it while Jon continued to decline, heavily medicated, attending therapy while battling suicidal thoughts. We lodged a claim with ACC and I spent months advocating for Jon, providing evidence and demonstrating that this was a work-related mental injury.

Jon was in a battle for his life. There was no way he had the strength and health to advocate for himself, navigate medicinal and physical treatment options and deal with the communication around the claim – if the phone rang with an unknown caller he would shake and be unable to answer it.

In October 2019 Jon experienced his most significant breakdown to date. I began researching different treatment options and in desperation moved our family to the UK to get a form of specialist trauma treatment not available in New Zealand.

Still only a handful of close friends and our family knew the truth about why we had gone away, however Covid forced our return after only a few sessions. During lockdown, Jon decided to share his story for the first time in a Facebook post that you can read here while I decided to help other First Responders.

The impact on our Police Officers, Ambulance Officers and Fire Fighters from repeated exposure to trauma is an issue that is not going away, and I now directly advocate for and support those who need guidance with this injury.

by Nicole Viljoen, September 2020