September 28 2017

How psychology helped me recover from a shooting

By Australian Psychological Society

Shot on the job, police officer Daryl Elliott Green faced a fight for his life. Police psychologists were at the centre of his recovery

It was a routine job. During a night shift at a Brisbane police station, then-27-year-old police officer Daryl Elliott Green and two of his colleagues were sent out in the middle of the night to investigate a reported disturbance. All three officers sat in their car when a shadowy figure approached.

Bang! Bang! Two shots fired: one hit Green in the face, the other in his shoulder.

“I could taste blood and feel bone in my mouth,” he explains.

For Green, recovery has been a monumental task, both physically and mentally. While surgeons took care of his damaged face and shoulder and performed multiple facial reconstruction surgeries, Green turned to a psychologist to help him with his mental wounds, which included being diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and severe depression.

“During the worst of my days, I would have to make myself a mental checklist so I would get out of bed – make coffee, check emails – and give myself something to do.”

The blokey culture of the police force at the time, which had an unofficial but effective policy of ‘don’t talk’, meant that Green struggled with the lack of workplace support.

“Here I was trying to talk about mental health, and I was told that I was somehow showboating,” he says, exasperated. “That was disappointing.

“But the police psychologist was very good, I had a very strong bond with him, he was really helpful.”

He suffered a further setback in 2003, when he had to undergo further facial reconstruction surgery, after the first lot of surgeries failed. At the same time, he was in the middle of what would be a decade-long battle for criminal compensation.

“There were some very low days, some very dark days.”

Seventeen years on, and Green still lives with the consequences of that fateful day. He recently had dental work because he now grinds his teeth due to stress and certain news events can trigger memories and cause distress. But he also speaks to groups of people across the world to spread the word that despite how tough depression and mental illness can be, there is help available and people can overcome great odds to recover and live positive lives.

He wants anyone who’s also going through a tough time, especially men, to know that there is effective and practical help available.

“In 2010, I felt really down again; I had a break-up and I was slogging away at work and one of my bosses got in touch with a police psychologist and then I started to speak about that, and that was very helpful.

“I also hope, that by speaking out, it might trigger something in someone who might have a friend or family member with depression, and encourage them to be a bit more sensitive and supportive of them. The best thing someone can say is ‘I don’t know what you’re going through, but I’m here for you’.”

Daryl Elliott Green will be joined by Olympic gold medalist Libby Trickett, former child soldier and 2016 Young Victorian of the Year, Fablice Manirakiza and founder of Billie Goat Soap, Leanne Faulkner, for a special free public event at 4pm on October 7 in Melbourne’s Federation Square. The event, which celebrates stories of Australians overcoming adversity and going on to thrive, is part of the Australian Psychologists Society’s Believe in Change campaign. Tickets are limited and bookings are essential.