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Six months ago 23-year-old Cameron Hapgood could not have imagined he would become a pillar of support for contemporary veterans like himself.

Thanks to the art workshops offered by Russell Pick in Ward 17 through The Repat Foundation – The Road Home, Cameron has found a release from living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Cameron was 17 years old and had just completed year 10 when he joined the Australian Army. At 19 he was deployed to Afghanistan for six months as a Counter-Rocket Artillery and Mortar Operator where his job was to operate and maintain radar systems for incoming rockets and artillery.

For Cameron it proved harder than expected to detach from his time in Afghanistan, leading him to Ward 17, as a patient at the Repatriation General Hospital.

“I was on a downward spiral at the start of 2015 and my friends and family were worried about me,” Cameron said.

Despite only being at the beginning of his journey with PTSD, through Russell’s canvas painting classes, Cameron has reconnected with a love of art he had left behind at high school.

“It’s still very soon in my therapy and I have a long way to go, but my time in Ward 17 and art classes with Russell have really helped me,” Cameron said.

“At first the classes were a bit daunting because I hadn’t participated in art since high school. It was a subject I loved at school but I disconnected from it since joining the defence force.”

The weekly canvas painting classes have been able to create an escape for Cameron and his fellow veterans.

“You get so absorbed in painting, it takes away every thought. I find it extremely calming and therapeutic,” Cameron said.

Having come a long way, last month Cameron joined the Carer and Consumer Advisory Group at the Repat Hospital and as the youngest member has become a voice for contemporary veterans and an advocate for art therapy.

“I am able to give a lot of insight into younger veterans and our perspective, what our needs are and how we can be better managed and helped.

“I will continue to push the benefits of art therapy, as well as the importance of research in this area for current and future generations of veterans.”

As for the future, Cameron is following in the footsteps of his mentor Russell and has been accepted into a Bachelor of Architectural design at The University of South Australia, starting in March 2016.

Cameron will continue contributing to the Carer and Consumer Advisory Group and assisting with the view of the contemporary veterans.

“Russell boosted my confidence in my artistic abilities. He has been a wealth of knowledge for me, as he pursued a different lifestyle after the Vietnam War, which is exactly what I want to do.”

The Repat Foundation – The Road Home would like to thank Cameron for sharing his story with us and wish him the best of luck in what is no doubt a bright future ahead!

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