Sunday, 18 November 2012

WW1 and PTSD

An interesting but often overlooked episode during the First World War is the treatment of soldiers for 'shell shock', something that was not completely understood at the time. Some of these soldiers were sent to hospitals where, more often than not, 'treatment' consisted of electric shocks and what today we would call downright abuse. (Read Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy for more on this). 

Symptoms of 'shell shock' include shaking, nightmares, convulsions, fits, lack of speech and even loss of memory. Over 80,000 men were diagnosed with some form of 'shell shock', but of course these are only the recorded cases. The famous war poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen were admitted to the same hospital for a time.

Not all doctors used electric shocks however. In a hospital in Devon, Arthur Hurst used hypnotherapy, as well as encouraging soldiers to remember what happened to them, reconstructing battlefields to prevent any sense of denial. Through this, Hurst managed to help over 90% of his patients. Pathe have just released some disturbing footage of some of these patients from the hospital, follow the link below.

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