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our wounded soldiers…our wounded lives…

January 17, 2017

“…kind of like my nightmares: they may not have been real, but they were the truth.”

                                                                                Romeo Dallaire

It’s pretty obvious from the current media coverage that we know about as much about PTSD in popular culture today as we did about medicine 150 years ago.

I am in the midst of reading Romeo Dallaire’s book on his own PTSD struggle (Waiting for First Light), which is a difficult look at both the Rwandan genocide and the deep torment it left on Dallaire’s psyche having witnessed it firsthand.

Not an easy read, but an important read for anyone who wants to better understand PTSD, or how little we provide for our soldiers who return from such anguish-filled places.

I was in the midst of this book, when a soldier in Nova Scotia killed his family and then himself, and then another soldier, home from his tour in Iraq, walked out of a bathroom in the Ft. Lauderdale international airport and opened fire, randomly shooting people as he went (killing 5, wounding more).

It has been reported in the media that both men sought mental health support for PTSD, only to be turned away.

And now, the Globe and Mail reports this last week, that not a single Canadian soldier suicide that has happened since 2004 has been investigated by Veterans Affairs. More soldiers have died from suicide since their tour in Afghanistan than died in Afghanistan yet their deaths seem not worth noting.

Politicians love to send off their soldiers to far-flung regions of the planet to fulfill often dubious missions, yet, have no time for the broken veterans who return home. To admit a relationship between the PTSD experienced in war, would require that the government open up millions of dollars for post-battle care. they are reluctant to admit to PTSD as it may open up the government to class action suits if we admitted that we knowingly send troops into battle understanding that they will come back damaged. (We do know this, and have known this as far back as Greek Tragedies, but it is different than legally admitting we know this.)

What these men and women see in the battlefield, or on so-called “peacekeeping missions”, are too grotesque to repeat here, even if it is only words. Imagine then living with these memories 24 hours a day for the rest of your life?

In the way sugar will be the cigarette issue of this century, PTSD is the emerging mental health issue of our lifetime. Trauma has deep multi-generational roots in western culture – from endless colonial wars, domestic violence, poverty, models of masculinity, badges of honor, sexual violence – few of us have escaped its fingers. It has been a great elephant in the room for too many generations.

It is so enormous that I think we are afraid to open the can of worms, that if we bring it into the sunlight our society would go into a collective psychosis.

Stoicism has been the preferred treatment for too long. Suck it up! That’s life. Get on with things…

Here’s an idea: rather than spend $500 million on a giant Canada 150th birthday party, how about we re-direct that into PTSD care for our broken soldiers? How about we open a national debate on PTSD and how best to address how it has destroyed our Aboriginal communities? How about supporting the 500,000 women who are sexually assaulted every year in Canada? And what about the children who are abused, those who are bullied, gay bashed, those who are homeless…?

Try and imagine the possibilities for healing…

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Peggy Wildsmith permalink
    January 18, 2017 7:21 pm

    Bravo for being the voice of common sense. Now if you would only run for PM as it seems we are very short on people in our government with any common sense.

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