Craig on the power of connection after deployment

6 min

I joined the army as a reservist in my mid-20s, got out for a while, and then decided I needed to go back. When I returned, I deployed twice to Afghanistan, in 2010 and 2012. During these tours, I had some pretty full-on experiences.

In the period leading up to my first deployment, I lost a mate in a training accident. That was devastating. Then, I had a really challenging deployment, and I got bullied by a platoon commander. I hung in there as long as I could, but I had to remove myself from the platoon for my mental health. Then, three mates died in a helicopter accident, and seven others were maimed. Coming home from that was a really big challenge. This was when I first became aware that I wasn’t doing well. Sometimes, it was almost like being drunk. It was a funny feeling of just being a bit off balance.

You don’t realise there’s a problem straight away. My psychiatrist now tells me I’m dismissive of my symptoms. You get far enough down the track and go, “Oh, there’s something wrong here.” But usually, you’ve had a few challenging thoughts or moments before you get to that. The first time I recognised it was when I got back from deployment. I had a little bed-sit apartment and didn’t want to leave the house. A friend of mine said, “Meet me at the pub,” and he bought me a beer and forced me to talk. If it hadn’t been for somebody helping me to see that there was a problem, I wouldn’t have been able to get out of my funk as quickly or as easily. It wasn’t until I got out of the military in 2014 that I started to see a counsellor, and I found that massively empowering.

Sometime later, I decided to go through the Department of Veterans Affairs process to get diagnosed with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, alcohol misuse disorder and major depressive disorder. It was a massive help because you realise what you’re up against then and can actually deal with it accordingly. That was huge. It’s been a big process, and it still is. 

“The first time I recognised it was when I got back from deployment. I had a little bed-sit apartment and didn’t want to leave the house.”

– Craig Ball

I thrive today in spite of those challenges because I do all the things I’m supposed to do. I train six times a week. I do yoga. I see a counsellor every fortnight. The philosophical approach I take is routed in stoicism and informed by Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) which was orginally developed as a philosophy of living.

Connection is really important. I really notice and feel it even now when I haven’t connected with my mates for a while. I didn’t realise the full extent of its importance until I started my men’s health walk in December 2022. That’s now a major connection point for me and for the guys that come regularly. We talk every week, and I really miss it if I have to take a week or two off. I try to help guys connect with one another as best I can because I know firsthand how bad it can be without it. 

Everybody tends to scatter when you get out of the military. They go back to where they’re from or where their partner is from and do their best to start over again in lots of ways. I’ve got a group of mates who all served together, and we stay in touch. You also miss your typical sense of duty. I had the benefit of going full-time at 33, so my identity was fairly well-established when I went in. Leaving didn’t upset me as much as it can for people who joined up earlier. That loss of purpose at times wasn’t as significant for me as it is for others. I had to realise that my family and my house and where we lived… I said to myself, “Maybe that’s what your new posting is.” That was a good way to term it in language that made sense.

I’m very lucky; my wife and I have three amazing kids, so we are all quite connected there. It’s also a good test to see how I’m managing my mental health because sometimes, if things get a bit too stressful and if I snap at the kids or whatever, I just know what to look for. And I think a lot and quite deeply about whether this is PTSD coming up or anything and how I can manage that.

After getting advanced training in REBT, I started teaching mental health and resilience programs and have been doing so for over twenty years. We’ve achieved some humbling results, and I’m still in touch with people who attended years ago.

If you think there’s something wrong, go get yourself looked at and diagnosed. Reach out, get involved, participate. I know it can be really hard to get out of the house sometimes, but just get out and have a crack at something. Our community is full of things to do. You’ve got to be a friend to make friends. Go out there, listen, learn, and figure out something that suits you that you feel comfortable doing. Even if you don’t, it feels a bit uncomfortable, so stretch yourself because while “It’s okay not to be okay,” it can become an excuse. It is okay when things aren’t going great, but it’s on every one of us to fight and to work as hard as we can to get and find a level of okay and not accept anything less. It is not enough just to accept when things aren’t going well. Every one of us has the power to do something, so have a crack and back yourself.

My other bit of advice is to forgive yourself. Even if you don’t have mental health challenges, just start to forgive yourself for all the things you’ve been beating yourself up over the years. Your life’s too short.

Accept yourself because you can breathe, and you’re here, and you’re alive, and really be grateful for what you’ve got, what you’re passionate about, who you care about and who cares about you.

You can reach out to me via my website or through Facebook at Craig Ball – Men’s Mental Health Speaker.


Mental health

Did you find this page helpful?

Information provided on this website is not a substitute for medical advice

Call 000 for emergency services

If you or someone you know needs urgent medical attention.

Call MensLine Australia on 1300 78 99 78 for 24/7 support

MensLine Australia is a telephone and online counselling service for men with emotional health and relationship concerns.

Sign up to our newsletter

We release two monthly newsletters – one written for men, family and friends, and another for health practitioners.

Your preferred mailing list

Your name

Your email

Stay up to date


Healthy Male acknowledges the traditional owners of the land. We pay our respects to elders past, present and future. We are committed to providing respectful, inclusive services and work environments where all individuals feel accepted, safe, affirmed and celebrated.


Healthy Male is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. This website does not host any form of advertisement. Information provided on this website is not a substitute for medical advice.

Trusted information partner of