"It's the best therapy, socially, and it takes your mind off things. You're not thinking about all the garbage. It gets rid of stinking thinking."
Mark Ricketts is talking about the Art and Soul music group, a group of ex and current Australian Defence Forces and emergency services personnel, formed to help out people who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Sadly, Mark's story is not an unusual one with returned service personnel. Suffering from PTSD after seven years in the armed forces in the 90s, Mark had been homeless for a year while living in Tasmania before moving to the Manning Valley, a place where he did not know a soul.
Mark loves to play music, but he says being homeless meant he had to give up his piano.
"You can't move a piano around with you everywhere," he says.
Added to the PTSD and resultant homelessness, a form of contractions in both hands, requiring four operations to date, meant Mark could no longer play anyway.
"I couldn't use my trade anymore - I can't work. And then music seemed to be taken away. I had no social life, no nothing."
Joining the Art and Soul music group has totally changed his life, Mark says.
"It's the advantage of being part of something. (They're) good people; like minded people. They've got good morals. It's not based around alcohol or other bad things. So it's just very positive thing. It's put a bit of hope back into the old circle."
No one has to explain their triggers. We never ask why. We just move on- Tony Johnson
It's not just the social aspect of being around other veterans who like to play music, it's the effect that playing music has on the brain and the mindfulness it requires while you play, that is of huge benefit to the group members.
"Every time you play the music and sing, you can't think about other things," Tony Johnson, one of the founders of the music group explains.
Tony, who has PTSD from serving in Vietnam, and Art and Soul art group co-founder Jillian Oliver, started the music group as an offshoot of the art group around two years ago.
The group has now grown to have 10 members on their books. They vet potential members before they join, because they can't have people who will trigger other members' PTSD.
Choices of music, also, can be triggering.
"Some of the songs we might sing may be a trigger, and we don't want that. The obvious songs are I was only 19 and those sort of Vietnam war sort of songs," Tony explains.
"There are other songs, too, that are triggers. There's one particular song we don't play that one was my mum's favorite song. And it was a bit of light rock stuff. So if everybody here wanted to play that, I'd have to say no.
"There's only got to be one black ball, and that's it, we won't play it.
"No one has to explain their triggers. We never ask why. We just move on," Tony says.
The Art and Soul music group meets at St Matthews Anglican Church hall on Wednesdays from 10am to 3pm. For more information call Jillian on 0428 146 210.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Did you know? Manning River Times online subscribers not only have 24/7 access to local and national news, sport, what's on and entertainment - they also have access to our print editions in digital format, with all the advertisements and classifieds at their fingertips.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.