Healing PTSD through filmmaking

7:47 AM, Jun 11, 2012   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- A surge in suicides among veterans has officials looking for ways to intervene before it gets even worse.

The VA says there is a link between suicide and post traumatic stress disorder, which is also at crisis levels. But trying to diagnose and treat PTSD has been elusive.

Psychiatrists are still trying to figure out why some in the military can bounce back with no problem after witnessing some of the indelible horrors of war, and why others struggle with the memories for a lifetime.

PTSD can paralyze its victims with fear, rage, insomnia, and a sense of being out of control. Treatment can include medication and counseling. But alternative therapies have included everything from wood-working to companion pets to medicinal marijuana.

The latest creative approach, one endorsed by the military, is film-making.

"I made the video; it turned out really well," said SPC Angelica Carr. "I wanted to watch the video before I went to bed every night to see if I could maybe change the way the dream actually went."

The program began last year as part of the I Was There Media Workshop, created by Scott Kinnamon and Ben Patton, grandson of the famed general. Soldiers get to make their own short movies as a way to confront their memories.

"And so it's therapeutic, and you get to say what you want to say," said MSGT Jason Gallegos, another of the soldiers telling his story through filmmaking.

Atlanta psychiatrist Dave Davis is one of those who support the idea, adding that using film or video with guided psychotherapy has potential as a treatment.

Members of the film industry agree.

"I think that's a great way for the soldiers and veterans to be able to express themselves and let some of the steam off, some of the pressure off," said Atlanta filmmaker John P.Wheatley.

To say Wheatley knows a little something about the craft would be an understatement. A nominee for an American Black Film Festival award this month, Wheatley's shot everything from music videos to short films, like "The Spirit Of Influence." 

He says you don't have to be an acclaimed or aspiring director to express your feelings through film.

"Filmmaking is a form of expression and what better way do you have to get all the emotions you have bottled up inside and let it out," said Wheatley. "And when you let it out, there might be a person on the other side of the room, the other side of the state, the other side of the world, who'll say, 'Hey man, that's me. I'm not alone.'"


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