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Michael Burge awarded OAM for fight against depression

DIGGER Michael Burge rose out of the darkness of depression 20 years ago determined to help others in the same position.

The mental health advocate has spent his working life and holidays helping other soldiers.

The Toowoomba man received an Order of Australia Medal from Queensland Governor Paul de Jersey at Government House in Brisbane for his dedication to the community.

But the soldier of 20 years, who retired from the army in 1995, refused to take all the credit.

Mr Burge said the OAM was recognition for not only his own volunteer work, but that of other mental health advocates.

"To me, this is a win for all mental health volunteers," Mr Burge said.

"I'm a mixture of being a tad embarrassed and a tad proud."

He was inspired to become involved in mental health advocacy after a Digger from East Timor was shot and Mr Burge felt the government did not care appropriately for him.

"They didn't appear to be looking after people from overseas very well," he said.

Mr Burge himself served overseas, including in East Timor.

He also suffered from post traumatic stress syndrome, major depression and anxiety.

But Mr Burge said government support had come a long way in the past 20 years.

He admitted his dedication to mental health work, both as a career and outside work, had at times been difficult for his family.

"Mental health is one of those jobs that consumes you," Mr Burge said.

He has served on numerous national and international committees. - APN Newsdesk