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Mental Health Awareness Month: Daniel Cooper


As we continue the conversation surrounding mental health and invisible illnesses, we are honoured to be able to share Daniel Cooper’s story. 

Daniel Cooper served in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) for seven years, until a non-combat related incident occurred while he was deployed in 2013. This resulted in several injuries, and ultimately led him to be medically discharged from the RAAF.   

Alongside his physical injuries, Daniel also experiences PTSD. He is currently in treatment and is a proud full-time dad, but Daniel notes that it was not always this way. He explains how he struggled to find his way after being medically discharged. 

My transition wasn’t the easiest. I wasn’t honest with myself or those around me about how I was doing. I struggled mentally. I felt very isolated and missed the comradery the RAAF had provided. My relationships struggled and faltered.  I tried to return to work and tertiary study [also known as post-secondary], but my mental health suffered and I ended up in a mental health facility on more than one occasion. It took me many years to find my feet and be in a place of comfort with the transition.”   

Daniel continues; “I have tried many different therapies and treatments with limited success. As a result of my poor mental health, I have been admitted to hospital for acute psychiatric care on six occasions, varying between several weeks to months. My mental health and associated behavioral issues have resulted in the breakdown of two marriages, lost contact with two of my step children, and many damaged relationships with friends and family members.”   

In late 2022, Daniel experienced a breakthrough in his journey of recovery in the form of a new drug treatment and since then his mental health has improved considerably.  

After Daniel participated in a recent Invictus Adventure to Borneo in March earlier this year, the experience and comradery left him filled with hope and inspiration. 

My future is looking very bright. I believe I have built some solid foundations thanks to my health care providers. Now I want to start building on that. I have been dedicated to being an at home Dad the past several years, but now my son has started at primary school and my older kids are mostly interstate starting their own adult lives, I want to start challenging myself more. After speaking with several veterans during our trek in Borneo about the Invictus Games, I have been inspired to attempt to qualify for the Australian team at the next games, in 2027 I believe. The journey in Borneo has proven to me that I am not alone, I am capable, and I am enough. Now I want to chase my goal and test myself.”   

When asked to reflect on his past and what advice that he would give his past self, or someone else in a similar situation, he said he would really drive home that there is help, and that no one needs to suffer alone. 

 “[I would tell them to] be open and honest with those around them, friends, family, and certainly health care providers. I would encourage them to seek out Veteran communities, such as Invictus Australia and the Invictus [Games] Foundation. Finding that community opens so many doors to recovery. I would also remind them that they are not alone.” 

Increasing awareness, improving resources, and destigmatizing mental health struggles helps encourage and empower Veterans like Daniel to overcome these barriers and prioritize their mental well-being. 

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