Do events cause operational stress injuries, including chronic depression and PTSD or something else, hidden from view? This is a central focus of ongoing research into military mental health. Be strong, follow orders, show no fear, banish one’s private thoughts and reactions and use anger to succeed. Military men and women are trained to manage adrenaline and their private reactions, through an essential skillset – compartmentalization, depersonalization, and even dissociation – to help them face routine and exceptional circumstances without a second thought. But what if this very skillset - an essential requirement – is the very thing that keeps people caged up emotionally without acceptable outlets. The premium placed on pride and specialness usually over-rides humility or the truth of vulnerability and there is not much room, either for things like compassion, empathy, tenderness, or kindness without fears of being weak. When personal ego is no longer fed by others or by the rewards of heroic acts, the result is often a crushing sense of emptiness - useless, without purpose, and an indifference to life.
‘Ghost in the Ranks: Forgotten Voices and Military Mental Health’ (Upcoming Release) addresses these issues head-on through the stories of serving and retired members of the military.
“… an open and straightforward message to the men and women who serve and Canadian society about the lingering effects of an acquired military identity on mental health struggles... [he] has captured the very fabric of the men and women who serve. A must read!” — Michael Hobson, Veteran and R2MR Mental Health Educator
John J. Whelan
John J. Whelan, Ph.D., is the author of Going Crazy in the Green Machine, available now on FriesenPress.