HEALTHY BITE | PTSD Affects Us All in Some Way

Hello and welcome to another Healthy Bite. Now this week, I had the pleasure of speaking to Admiral Chris Barrie. Chris was the Chief of the Defence Force from 1998 to the year 2002. It was such a great discussion. We talked about PTSD. Chris shared with me, which was rather surprising, that every Australian is affected to some degree by this condition because so many people suffer from it. And it's not just returned servicemen that are the issue, it is people who have traumatic experiences in their life. We also talked about his not for profit organization, Fearless Outreach.

PTSD Affects Us All in Some Way

I had the pleasure of speaking to Admiral Chris Barrie. Well, this week’s episode actually, did speak to Chris just before Christmas, and he was looking forward to this being released but it was such a great discussion. 

Chris was the Chief of the Defence Force from 1998 to the year 2002, which was just the year before the Australian Forces joined the forces of the willing or something and went into Afghanistan and Iraq. We had some interesting discussions about that.

The Psychedelic Summit

Actually, the reason I got to speak to Chris Barrie was rather than unlikely or rather surprising for me. Last year I attended the Psychedelics Summit, which is all about the use of psychedelic therapy. 

This was sponsored by Mind Medicine Australia and psychedelics are showing some great promise in terms of treating chronic depression, post-traumatic stress and a range of other intractable and frustrating mental health conditions. What is so interesting about this is that it actually results in a resolution of these problems.

I’ve mentioned many times before that our current health care system is a wonderful economic model, generating billions of dollars and in fact, trillions of dollars worth of revenue and billions of dollars worth of profits, mainly for the pharmaceutical industry. We have done programmes with Martin Whitely on Overprescribing Madness in Australia and Dr Martin Whitely wrote that great book.

Also with Professor Julia Rucklidge talking about a nutritional approach to some of these problems but the psychedelic summit really was an opportunity to listen to some of the world leaders in this area and what is so interesting is that this kind of therapy is actually resulting in some really breakthrough experiences for people on an individual level who is suffering from some really challenging problems. 

One of the most challenging is post-traumatic stress disorder. One of the things that Chris shared with me which were rather surprising was that every Australian is affected to some degree by this condition because so many people suffer from it. 

It’s not just returned servicemen that are the issue, it is people who have traumatic experiences in their life. It may be child abuse, it may be sexual abuse, it may be domestic violence, it may be racial or sexual vilification. It may be a whole range of things.


When it comes to trauma, we did a great programme last year with Sarah Woodhouse on trauma and realised that trauma is a very personal experience and when we are feeling vulnerable, then traumatic experiences become more the norm if you like and have a much deeper and lasting effect. 

When one starts to think about post-traumatic stress in that context, you realise how widespread, how ubiquitous this problem is and what a huge cost it is on our society.

So to have a therapy available, which sadly isn’t and here’s another thing from the TGA that while the TGA seems to have no problem approving antidepressant drug medications, which are really a way of long term management. The potential for cure is just a step too far for the TGA to take. They rejected Mind Medicine Australia’s application to have psychedelic therapies, which includes psilocybin, mushrooms, LSD and MDMA as therapeutic uses. 

When I talk about these, we’re not talking about this as recreational use. We are talking about it in a very controlled environment done under the supervision of the psychotherapist or a psychologist, usually with a seven-hour session or some sessions prior to the actual experience, the experience itself and then several sessions afterwards to process what was experienced. It’s interesting to note that I think something like 80 or 90 % of people who have experienced this are referred to it as one of the five most meaningful experiences in their lives.

Now, there are not many medications where people would give that kind of response, but for people, not almost 90 % of people, describe it as one of the five most meaningful experiences in their life. But for the TGA, that was too much. Interestingly, the Black Dog Institute applauded the TGA’s response to that. 

I guess when you go back and listen to Martin Whitely’s Overprescribing Madness and you read that book, which has over 60 pages of hyperlinked references talking about the Black Dog Institute as a business model in a similar way, you know, the business model of the Black Dog Institute is depression in the same way as the business model of the Diabetes Council, is Diabetes Heart Foundation, et cetera, et cetera. 

These are all great business models, the great economic models. But if the evidence is anything to go by and by evidence, I mean, how have these organisations, how have they reduced the impact of this disease? What is the success of these organisations in treating these chronic diseases that are preventable? Those are preventable.

I think the evidence, as we live in a world of evidence-based medicine, speaks for itself. Really, I think all of these problems have only grown since these organisations have focused their attention on the problem. When I read that the Black Dog Institute actually applauded the TGA’s refusal, it didn’t actually surprise me. But that’s a whole other story.

About Chris Barrie

Chris Barrie was such a pleasure, such a joy to speak to. What an inspiring person he is, not only for the service that he has given the country over the years, and what an opportunity for me to speak to the chief of the Defence Force the year before Australia embarked on its forays into Iraq and Afghanistan. 20 years of military action in Australia’s case. Something like 50 Australian servicemen lost their lives in those campaigns, and it was rather sobering to learn that something like five or six hundred servicemen have taken their own lives, suffering from post-traumatic stress following that conflict.

Chris had some really interesting things to say about leadership, about getting involved in a conflict, sharing his own experience, leading the international forces in East Timor. When that country was going through independence and it was just such a wonderful conversation, and not only when he retired in 2002, and he is now focussed on a, not for profit organisation called Fearless Outreach, which deals with post-traumatic stress disorder not just for returned servicemen, but for all those people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

I’d really recommend you have a listen to the interview this week. It was a great interview. I was really honoured to have him on as a guest, and I hope you enjoyed it as well. I hope this finds you well.


This podcast provides general information and discussion about medicine, health, and related subjects. The content is not intended and should not be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for care by a qualified medical practitioner. If you or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately qualified medical practitioner. Guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, experiences, and conclusions.