Recently several research studies have been published about PTSD in the military. One powerful study conducted by The King's Centre for Military Health Research *1 suggests the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have led to an increase in the rate of probable Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among members of the UK Armed Forces. But It is not only the war, the training and the conditioning to kill, can impact a young soldier in a traumatic way.
Military training and combat exposure can have a negative biological and physiological effect on anyone, especially a young (16-25-year-old) soldier. While adolescents are still maturing emotionally and intellectually; early experience of combat and trauma exposure can embed long-term vulnerability to mental health problems. Beyond war and armed conflict, the entire military experience can be traumatising: soldiers are rewired to be de-sensitised, the enemy de-humanised, but then witness innocent people’s homes and lives being destroyed. All these elements can have an effect on mental well-being.
Taz Skylar's play #WARHEADS shines a spotlight on the growing mental health crisis in the UK Armed Forces and illuminates how young soldiers can sufferer with PTSD. Unfortunately, segments of the military are still dismissive of the complexity behind the issue, as well as the effects PTSD has on people's lives long-term. This play addresses the reality of these people's lives, which is often hidden from the world. From my perspective as a trauma specialist, this show is relevant because it carries a pro-therapy message.
Statistics (Medact 2017) *2 show that certain socio-demographics, or classes, are more likely to join the military due to lack of education, lack of opportunity and possible dysfunctional family life. Military-themed video games can condition the same people to see combat as the norm, with the reality of war often being a minor theme over “loot crates” and “kill counts”. The recruitment marketing of the Armed Forces focuses on an alternative lifestyle and can paint a misleading image with luring statements. The experience is glamourised, with opportunities to explore the world and the promise of “cool armour” and “big guns”; but that is only half of the picture, with no mention of the psychological impact, threat to health or potential PTSD caused by the experience.
In my own work, as a Trauma Informed Art Psychotherapist, I have witnessed the latent effects of PTSD. Symptoms may not present themselves until five to ten years after the exposure. When the brain receives trauma, it may bypass the information for survival. The unprocessed psychic material is stored in the unconscious mind. This repressed traumatic experience may be triggered and reveal itself in different ways; such as, aggressive behaviour, domestic violence, drugs and alcohol misuse, or suicidal ideation. PTSD may be overshadowed by these presenting problems and thus misdiagnosed.
Veterans with untreated PTSD may be stigmatised and disadvantaged; unable to work or homeless. These issues are beginning to have a broader socioeconomic and sociopolitical impact, creating more pressure on the healthcare and prison system. In the face of this social issue, #WARHEADS is very timely – especially in light of recent research *3. The show specifically addresses PTSD in young soldiers and brings it to a personal and accessible level. While these research studies hold important data and statistics, the play #WARHEADS offers a human, lived experience, which everyone can relate to.
Theatre is one of the most dynamic mediums for expressing this kind of narrative, while also being a powerful platform for empathy and learning – expressive arts and drama therapy can be beneficial to PTSD sufferers to safely re-experience and act out what they have been exposed to.
#WARHEADS is in-your-face and real. Complex mental health disorders like PTSD when presented clinically and analytically can prolong the stigma. This play is urban, and very “now”, it engages the human side of the condition and highlights the need to seek support. #WARHEADS will hopefully de-stigmatising this complex issue and make it assessable to a wider audience by bringing awareness, insight, and support to those who suffer from PTSD.
*1 King's Centre for Military Health Research - Increase in probable PTSD among British military
*2 Medact -The Recruitment of Children by the UK Armed Forces
*3 Journal of Interpersonal Violence - PTSD as a Risk Factor for the Development of Violence Among Juvenile Offenders: A Group-Based Trajectory Modeling Approach
Writer of article:
Eden O. Shoro
+44 (0) 288 944 9934
+44 (0) 741 553 6164
Producer/Writer of play:
Taz Skylar firstname.lastname@example.org
© Eden O. Shoro 21/10/18
Trauma Informed Art Psychotherapist
MA, HCPC, BAAT
London Pub Theatres Magazine Limited