Police PTSD Allan Sparkes was a highly decorated police officer when his life spiralled out of control. 'There is no darker place than a place where you are planning to take your own life.Its a very private place. When I used to visit this place it was as if I were going down into a deep , deep cave where there was only darkness, silence & loneliness'. exert from The Australian May 18 2013
Allan Sparkes didn't think twice about rescuing an 11-year-old boy from a flooded storm water drain – the courageous policeman put his life on the line and saved the kid. He became one of only five people to be awarded Australia's highest decoration for bravery, the Cross of Valour, but the rescue would signal a downward spiral into post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
Here was a man with many professional accolades, who had thrived on never knowing what his next call would involve – murder, bombings, junkies and robberies were often part of a day's work for this detective, yet he suddenly lost his 20-year career and all sense of self-worth.
Allan's recovery from debilitating PTSD was a rollercoaster ride of personal challenges that tested his courage and resolve over more than a decade. With the unwavering support of his wife, he faced his demons and rebuilt his mind, body and soul. Today, Allan is back to being his adventurous self, prepared to face whatever comes his way. The Cost of Bravery is his compelling story.
Foreword by Ray Martin AM
I first met Allan Sparkes a few years ago, while doing a 60 Minutes story on civilian heroes. I am quite familiar with the excruciating pain of Allan's personal demons that began to destroy him and his family, as well as his agonising battle against the New South Wales Police Force that terminated his employment.
When you read the citations at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra of men who have won the Victoria Cross (VC) you think – with great pride – that their heroic feats on the battlefield border on total madness. Well, Allan Sparkes won the equally hallowed Cross of Valour – the civilian equivalent of the VC – when he put his life in jeopardy to save a kid trapped down a raging drain. His action was way beyond the call of duty. Remember, only five Australians have ever been awarded the Cross of Valour.
What Sparksey did that rainy Coffs Harbour day in 1996 was sheer bloody insanity. But thank God he did it, because we can all bask in his stir-crazy heroism. And decency. There is also a young man alive today because Allan Sparkes risked his life.
This was a career policeman who gave 'the thin blue line' a better name, just by being a good, professional cop. But when put to the test, 'the Force' wasn't with Sparksey and that fuelled his sense of personal failure.
I finished The Cost of Bravery in one sitting. I found it compelling. It's a rich, rollicking, highly readable journey to hell and back. Its honesty is deeply disturbing at times. It is such a credible horror saga, entwined in an old-fashioned love story, where the girl saves the bloke from himself.
The reasons for his breakdown – as Sparkes lays his emotions out there for all to see – are regrettable and reprehensible. Allan Sparkes almost drowned in his own despair. His recovery is inspirational.
For more information on PTSD, Police PTSD & and support groups for Police PTSD contact the Police Post Trauma Support Group. or the Police Association Of NSW Discuss your legal options with Personal Injury Accredited Specialist John Cox at Cox West Lawyers.