The RSA Poppy Appeal is shining a light on veterans' mental health this year with the theme "not all wounds bleed".

The appeal, which raises vital funds to support the growing needs of New Zealand's 41,000 veterans and their families, was officially launched in Auckland today.

This year's theme looks to highlight the fact that mental health injuries are the most common, but least understood, of all wounds suffered by New Zealand servicemen and women.

RSA national president BJ Clark said the RSA was committed to providing a wide range of help to former members of the military who have served in deployments around the world.

"There's a growing demand for our support services, including an increasing number with service-induced mental health injuries. These are best described as any persistent psychological difficulty resulting from duties.


"These injuries may occur because of exposure to trauma or stress arising from combat, operational duties in a conflict zone, or other traumatic or serious events such as civil defence emergency or disaster relief," he said.

NZ Defence Force (NZDF) medical director Dr Paul Nealis said stress injuries occur along a spectrum, ending with the most severe - Post Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI).

"Symptoms of PTSI include reliving the event, including nightmares, flashbacks, or intrusive thoughts. In addition, sufferers can experience avoiding thoughts, feelings, or situations that serve as reminders of the event, feeling numb or cut off from others, being easily startled and being vigilant for signs of danger."

Mental health advocate and comedian Mike King is one of this year's ambassadors. Photo / Supplied
Mental health advocate and comedian Mike King is one of this year's ambassadors. Photo / Supplied

Mike King, a prominent mental health educator and founder of The Key to Life Charitable Trust, is acting an ambassador for RSA and said he is in full support of the theme.

"As someone who has battled mental health and addiction issues, and having spent time visiting with our troops on overseas deployments, I totally get the 'not all wounds bleed' message of this year's Poppy Appeal.

"We all have our issues and it's okay to ask for help. Thanks to the RSA, our service men and women have somewhere to turn to for advice, support and services."

Tina Grant, a serving soldier, mother and a war widow, also recognises the critical importance of caring for families of those in service.

Grant's husband Doug was killed in Afghanistan in August 2011.

"Caring for those who have served and – importantly – their families, is an important way that we as communities and as a nation can support all those who put themselves in harm's way in service of New Zealand," she said.

"Mental health is now a central part of that because of the stress and pain experienced by many service men and women from their time overseas and that usually has a ripple effect on families.

"You can help them by supporting the RSA Poppy Appeal which will make a real difference for people in our community."

The proceeds of the Poppy Appeal also help veterans coping with the myriad of conditions brought on by service, for help with transitioning to civilian life or financial aid in times of hardship.

The appeal is a time for New Zealanders to recognise that service and give back to those who have made sacrifices and put their well-being at risk for others.


Members of the public can support the appeal by making a donation to a Street Appeal collector on Friday April 20.

Donations can also be made online; at any ANZ branch; and via the NZME Pin-a-Poppy Appeal text donations (people can contribute $3 by texting POPPY to 4622).