Warriors within war are often fighting a war within themselves, long after they have left the combat zone. This war, as a rule, is not honoured, favoured or understood by others, which contributes to the feeling of devastation, frustration and trauma that the soldiers experience. The experience they obtained when fighting usually seriously contradicts their previous experience, which leads to the formation of new values and attitudes that might not be shared by the society at large. Psychological effect left on soldiers is something many question if they are valid: depression, PTSD, drug addictions and suicidal tendencies. Some are left with questions on how they ended up in such a manner in the first place and what to do next.
There is no agreement among scholars as to the causes of PTSD. The majority of research, however, argues that a person’s mind is unable to process feelings and information in a normal way after a traumatic combat experience, which eventually leads to the development of PTSD. Factors such as personality type and genetics may influence one’s predisposition to PTSD. Finally, the majority of studies show that pre-traumatic psychological factors (such as low self-esteem) and post-traumatic reactions (such as social support or the absence of such) influence the likelihood of PTSD (Lee et al, 2014). Risk factors for PTSD include the experience of childhood abuse or neglect, experience of an intense of severe trauma, a history of mental illness within family, and history or alcohol or substance abuse (Lee et al, 2014). Certain soldiers are, however, predisposed to longer experience of depression. As argued by Hedges, war usually uses the economically deprived individuals as means of achieving its goal. Very often, upon the arrival of soldiers back home, they are not given the needed medical or social support. For instance, it has been shown that working class people are less likely to seek for medical help if needed, primary due to the bad access that they have to different medical institutions (Findings point to need to increase access to mental Health Services, 2005).
In the context of war, it is important to understand that soldiers often find themselves facing scenarios that leave them depressed. Enemies are dehumanized during war, causing enemies’ pain and death is the ultimate goal. The value of human life is depreciated. Men lose their agency in terms of controlling their own bodies, given that their bodies are now the property of the nation, not their own property (Batinic, 2001). Herbert metaphorically refers to war as the ‘meat grinder’ (Herbert, 2010), where the bodies of the predominantly poor individuals lose the symbolic value that is attached to them, and become the puppets in the hands of more powerful individuals. Hedges argues that during war ‘human decency and tenderness are crushed, and people become objects to use or kill’ (Hedges, 2012). Not surprisingly, this seriously affects the mental health of previously healthy soldiers that before used to live, at least seemingly, without witnessing the massive acts of violence. The lack of support and the so much needed understanding received from the society at large also contribute the deeply entrenched feeling of trauma that the soldiers face.
One of the most common approaches to treating PTSD is trauma-focused psychotherapies. These psychotherapies focus foremost on memories that an individual has about a traumatic event and usually last 16 sessions (Lee et al, 2014). For instance, the prolonged exposure therapy shows an individual how to control his or her negative feelings about a traumatic event. One of the important aspects of this therapy is talking about the traumatic experience with a counselor. Medications are also a commonly used method of treating PTSD. With the help of antidepressants, an individual’s brain cells that are responsible for communication and how a person feels are targeted. Whilst the above-mentioned are the ‘traditional’ approaches of dealing with PTSD, it might be helpful to expand research to integrative and complementary medicine approaches. Specifically, there is some evidence that yoga, acupuncture, or meditation might be helpful in terms of helping people who suffer from PTSD.
- “Findings point to need to increase access to mental Health Services.” Policy & Practice June 2005: 9.
- Batinic, J. (2001). Feminism, Nationalism, and War. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 3(1), 1-22.
- Hedges, Chris. “War Is Betrayal.” Boston Review 01, Jul. 2012. Culture a Reader for Writers 2014:364.
- Lee, D. J., Liverant, G. I., Lowmaster, S. E., Gradus, J. L., & Sloan, D. M. (2014). PTSD and reasons for living: associations with depressive symptoms and alcohol use. Psychiatry Research, 219(3), 550-555.