A former police inspector is calling for urgent change to ensure all emergency service workers get the same support and respect afforded to Australian Defence Force veterans.
The ex-officer, medically discharged with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2011, is not criticising emergency service organisations but says the focus should be on the "insensitive debilitating" exit process.
"We cannot allow health, be it physical or mental, to be managed by an insurance company," said the senior officer who needs to remain anonymous while his own case is being finalised.
"It's clear that insurance companies have an obligation to their shareholders to make money.
"I see this as debilitating and not in the spirit of any sincere healthy outcome for those and their loved ones who continue to suffer."
The inspector has 23 years' service in the NSW Police Force and is the first to admit he sorely misses his job.
When his wife noticed his anxiety rising and the wakeful nightmares, she contacted his commander.
What the inspector then thought would be a quick visit to a doctor for some "magic pills" ended in his devastating discharge.
"I was of the view like so many others that all you'll need is a couple of tablets, and you'll be back on the road," the former officer said.
"I went into this process believing that was all it was going to take.
"Diagnosing me with anxiety, depression and what is ultimately defined as PTSD, the doctor said he's not in the habit of giving a quick fix for a very serious condition.
"He said I would require professional psychological intervention and most probably long-term treatments and an extended leave of absence.
"He said there is every possibility given the severity of my condition that going back to work would not be an option. The doctor believed it would continue to get worse as a consequence of what I was being exposed to."
The former officer says he is now considered a deserter among his colleagues. "It's a common term in the police culture," he says. "People have 'gone off sad', that's the terminology that's used within the ranks."
He moved to the country and takes part in an outpatient treatment program for former emergency workers, including war veterans from Vietnam right up to soldiers back from the latest Iraq campaign.
"I've also listened to ambos and firies and certainly to police. We've all got the same story to tell in regards to our effects from PTSD, the symptoms associated with the condition, how it impacts on our personal lives and how we feel ostracised."
The former inspector doesn't blame the NSW Police Force but says the problem lies in the "process".
"That process is they give you a letter saying 'Thank you for your service' then your file is handed over to the insurance company who are charged with managing your health.
"You can't tell me by allowing an insurance company who gets the job via a tender process and whose mandate is to make money for shareholders, are the right people to manage me and my colleagues.
"Whenever we think we are not dealt with correctly we need our own solicitors, they are our voice - some are there to promote the fight, saying 'Let's take them on', then you're thrown into this turmoil fighting the very organisation you love and wish you were still working in."
The former inspector said he and his colleagues were either forced to sue or surrender to a process which is more debilitating in terms of support than the actual condition itself.
"On the one hand the practitioners are telling me I cannot maintain a role in a job that I have been involved in for most of my life, then on the other hand the practitioners employed by the insurance companies are telling me and my colleagues that we should work as maintenance men or security guards."
The former inspector said 5 per cent of NSW officers were lost each year and at least 3 per cent were medically discharged with psychological or physical injuries, or both.
Unlike ADF personnel, there are no formal support programs.
"Any programs that are available are supplied ad hoc by volunteers, or managed by the insurer via treatment plans with a focus on sickness," he said.
"And unlike the ADF this doesn't allow for any usage by families as say the Veterans Counselling Service.
"One only needs to click onto the Veteran Affairs website to find evidence of a plethora of support measures and ongoing assistance all delivered by evidence-based outcomes and a focused approach to improve the welfare, health and betterment of our returned veterans."
The former police officer stressed he believed Defence Force personnel deserved every ounce of support they received.
"I make it absolutely clear there are no criticisms directed towards the Australian Defence Force, or Triple-0 organisations in terms of what I am saying.
"Perhaps even to a lesser extent I'm not criticising insurance companies, other than to say this is not a job they should have. It should go towards a non-profit organisation in a similar way to the way the defence operates."
Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove once used the analogy of veterans falling off the mother ship Australia and becoming abandoned and isolated.
It was the community's responsibility to now look out and reach back for these people, the retired senior Australian Army officer said.
The former police inspector is asking why the same analogy isn't being applied to emergency service workers.
A Facebook page addressing these issues can be found at Stand Tall AUST - Emergency services.