From 'Shell Shock' To Activism: A Biography Of PTSD | KUOW News and Information

From 'Shell Shock' To Activism: A Biography Of PTSD

Mar 12, 2015

Our guest on this episode of Speakers Forum is David J. Morris, a war correspondent, former Marine and PTSD sufferer.

Morris served as a lieutenant in the Marine Corps in the 1990s, but did not see combat then. He went on to work as an embedded journalist in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2004 he was nearly killed when a Humvee he was riding in hit an IED.

In World War I, soldiers suffering from so called “shell shock” were often treated as cowards, charged with desertion and sometimes executed. Treatment, if it was offered, was harsh, often involving electric shock therapy. PTSD was first recognized officially in 1980, due in part to the activism of Vietnam War veterans.

People who suffer from PTSD often relive a traumatic experience through nightmares and flashbacks, have difficulty sleeping and feel detached or estranged. Their symptoms can be severe enough and last long enough to significantly impair their daily life.

The Department of Veterans Affairs reports that 5.2 million American adults have PTSD during a given year. About 10 percent of women develop PTSD sometime in their lives compared with about 4 percent of men.

When Morris returned home for treatment he discovered that many VA workers seemed to lack a thorough understanding of PTSD. He set out to research in great detail the causes and treatment of the syndrome.

His work includes scientific, historical and literary research and interviews with people living with PTSD. Morris found people in the U.S. largely unsympathetic to the plight of sufferers. His new book is “The Evil Hours: a Biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder." 

In it he writes, “No other people in history is as disconnected from the brutality of war as the United States today.”

The Elliott Bay Book Company presented this reading and talk on Feb. 13.

Thanks to Anna Tatistcheff for this recording