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Posted by landfallprods in Purple Mind.
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Our independent film, “Purple Mind,” is about a soldier just returned from the war zone in Iraq.  Every day, I read an article which reflects the difficulties of soldiers dealing with PTSD and TBI, who, too often, fail to find the help they need from the military or VA and wind up taking their own lives.

Today, Rajiv Srinivasan’s article in TIME is another such article.  He writes, “The veteran suicide epidemic is a terrible outcome of multiple years of war. I have personally dealt with the issue having both lost a dear friend to suicide and consoled soldiers during such circumstances and can attest to its devastating impact on the force and the wider community. Soldiers tend to pride ourselves on our ability to care and be cared for by their brothers in arms: it’s a bond seldom replicated in modern American living. So when one of our own decides that his or her life has lost its worth — that living is somehow more terrifying than dying — our entire circle feels an overwhelming failure has come over us. What if I hadn’t skipped out on that last beer? What if I had just said a few more nice things to them? How could I have let this person live without them knowing what they mean to me? The weight of this guilt bears upon us like armor, yet is surely not as easy to take off.”

In response to the shocking number of military suicides, the VA and the military have responded with campaigns aimed at getting soldiers and veterans much needed help, but the efforts have the tone of public service announcements encouraging seniors to get a flu shot, with the result that many do not seek help.

Srinivasan continues, explaining, “Over the course of a soldier or officer’s training, we inculcate in them a vicious and emotional resistance to weakness; a persistence and confidence to overcome any obstacle, even the prospect of fatal combat. We drill into our soldiers the value of obedience and discipline. We teach them to bear their own load as well as their buddies’. On a long and arduous climb up a mountain, it’s hard to be weak when you know your brother or sister is feeding off of your energy. This is the essence of the camaraderie and family that exists between service members in our military, and particularly on the front lines. These are of course among the most esteemed values in our society, yet are also the hardest barriers to break down when a soldier begins to devalue his or her own life.”

Srinivasan goes on to explain that the difficulty in solving the veteran mental health crisis isn’t as much a question of availability of services as it is a question of encouraging soldiers to use the services.  There are many who will dispute the availability of services, however the question of what it will take for a soldier convinced he or she can tough it out to take a risk and seek counseling remains.  Overcoming the stigma of using mental health resources remains a key problem and there is no official policy solution.  What will it take for soldiers and vets to realize the importance of taking mental health personally and seriously?

A key scene toward the end of “Purple Mind” illustrates the difficulties:

DOC:  You tried talkin’ to your wife?

ROY:  You gotta be kidding.

DOC:  No, I’m not kidding.

ROY:  Well she doesn’t want to hear it.  Plus, I’m not real good at talkin’ about it.

DOC:  Talkin’ about what?

ROY:  Talkin’ about shit.

DOC:  No.  Course not.  The Army doesn’t teach that.  It’s not manly.  But it takes a real man to talk about the shit, Roy.

ROY:  So, you really think that talkin’ would do something.

DOC:  I’ll put money on it.

It is almost universally agreed among mental health professionals that talking about the experiences underlying depression and PTSD is one of the most effective therapies in dealing with the “disorder.”  It is the key lesson learned by “Purple Mind’s” central character, Roy Matthews.

“Purple Mind” is available for streaming at http://www.purplemindmovie.com




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