A doctor who treats Canadian armed forces veterans with PTSD explores the causes and consequences of this devastating condition.
Ever since Dr. John Whelan (Going Crazy in the Green Machine, 2014) started working with veterans, he has felt that he had a duty “to ensure that the voices of those men and women wounded by their service are heard and not forgotten.” He does not fail in that mission in his new book—part medical report on the emotions that trigger PTSD, part journalistic investigation into the lives of soldiers who have returned home from war zones—which creates a bridge between suffering veterans and the people who want to understand and help them recover. In this volume, readers hear episodic tales from veterans with diverse experiences: from those who felt “intensely angry about their service” and others who struggled to integrate themselves “into a world with vague structure and unclear directions.” Whelan, a Royal Canadian Navy veteran, treats his subjects with the utmost respect and care, taking the time to explain to readers inexperienced in this field that “it is this stoicism and adherence to an outdated version of prideful masculinity that may be contributing to the problems of emotional exhaustion and mental health declines including the phenomenon of chronic PTSD.” Whelan sees the humanity of the veterans he tries to help, and his striking analysis of life in the armed forces—for instance, his explanation of how soldiers often feel more connected to their military family than their biological clan and therefore feel abandoned after leaving the service—shows readers that these warriors have complex emotions and that the best thing the public can do to honor them is to listen to their personal accounts. In this important and necessary book, Whelan explains that “at a fundamental level,” veterans are bound to the military and “maintain aspects of this identity” for the remainder of their lives. He concludes that “the real threat to the health of the institution is cynicism…cynicism tells members…that they are essentially on their own.”
A valuable work for anyone interested in gaining insight into the inner lives of troubled veterans.