A army veteran is getting behind a campaign to encourage people to have a barbecue on Remembrance Day this year and talk about mental health.
Gareth Shrubb, from Wollongong in NSW's Illawarra region, served in the Australian Defence Force for nearly a decade - including deployment to Afghanistan - and said November 11 was often a time to reach out to his fellow soldiers and see how they were holding up.
"Often we reach out to one another and check in and share some stories from our deployment and make sure one another are doing okay, because some of the guys can do it tough when they get back," Mr Shrubb said.
"We lost three members on our deployment and I think it's a special time to pause and reflect for those who served the country in uniform."
He said when he went into the army in his early 20s mental health wasn't something that was often spoken about or openly recognised.
"I was a bit naive and looked at it like it might not happen to us, or thought mental health of veterans was a thing of the past," he said.
At age 22, Mr Shrubb was deployed as a platoon commander to the Middle East and was responsible for nearly 50 soldiers in a remote part of the country, but it's not the "atrocities of war" that always play on the mind.
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"It is only the small aspect of what actually affects people's mental health," he said.
"You're living in a team environment with guys who you trust your lives with in a high tempo, high risk environment."
On returning to civilian life Mr Shrubb has been working with the veteran led charity Swiss 8 to help other veterans gain meaning and purpose back in their lives.
He said the charity's BBQ To Remember fundraiser was to pause and reflect on those who had served Australia in all forms and all wars, and ignite conversation around mental health.
Around 75 per cent of veterans will experience anxiety and depression after completing their service, according to Swiss 8 founder Adrian Sutton.
"Our mantra is to lead from the front and improve the mental health of not only our own veterans, but all Aussies," Mr Sutton said.
"Loneliness and social isolation is the leading cause of depression and COVID has forced this on all of us. It's times like this, we need to look to our defence and veteran community who have lived through this before and learned valuable lessons ... the need to stay connected to our people in order to maintain positive mental health."
Mr Shrubb said his own mental health challenges didn't catch up with him until several years after deployment, seeping in when he thought he had escaped it.
"I've had good days and bad days," he said.
"I've definitely had periods where I've had issues with my mental health, but I've sought professional help which I'd encourage people to do."
Nowadays he said speaking up about mental challenges was a lot more accepted and encouraged every Australian to reach out to a mate if they needed help.
Registrations are open to host a BBQ To Remember with all proceeds going to Swiss 8: https://swiss8.org/bbqtoremember
The charity is also running a raffle online.