Wednesday, July 16, 2008

New documentary tackles returning vets experiences with PTSD

From PR Web on July 16:

Las Vegas, NV -- More American soldiers kill themselves than are killed by the enemy, and many others suffer the effects of post traumatic stress disorder. As many as eighteen soldiers a day are committing suicide and most of those soldiers kill themselves after they return home. Their divorce rate has tripled since the beginning of the war and substance abuse among veterans is 4 times the national average. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg according to “Who Will Stand” producer/director Phil Valentine,

The two-hour documentary covers the plights of more than a dozen soldiers who have returned either physically or psychologically wounded, including hard-to-measure effects of post traumatic stress disorder.

“Nobody is surprised that war creates amputees, homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, divorce, but very few people are aware of the enormous rates of these issues,” said Valentine. “And almost no one is aware of the psychological issues that nearly 100% of combat soldiers suffer with, namely Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.”

Instead of covering the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and whether America should have gone in there, “Who Will Stand” focuses on the plight of returning disabled American veterans.

“Going back and forth on whether or not we should be in this war is like arguing over whether the Giants should have won the last Superbowl. What’s done is done. We’re there,” explains Valentine. Then he adds, “What we can and should do something about is how we take care of these disabled American veterans after they return.”

Phil Valentine and director of photography Michael Bedik began in September, 2007 travelling anywhere they could to find soldiers who were in trouble and were willing to talk.

“We were first hired to do a documentary on amputees returning from the war. But shortly into our research we found that the problem was much bigger than even we thought,” Bedik said. “The funny thing is that everyone in the military thinks that everyone knows what they’re going through but the truth is we don’t.”

A few months into filming Valentine and Bedik went back to executive producer Gerald Gillock, a Las Vegas Attorney, and told him that the only way we could do this story justice was to only interview soldiers, disabled American veterans, families of soldiers and the doctors who take care of them. Gillock told them to do whatever they had to do to find the truth.

Valentine says: “We discovered that the biggest problem was a soldier’s willingness to seek help for psychological issues. Amputations can be fixed with prosthetics but mental problems lead to a myriad of other, more severe, issues like unemployment, homelessness, divorce, substance abuse, child and spousal abuse and suicide.”

The film also addresses why the military and the VA is not doing enough to combat these problems.

“Look, we’re not out to bash the military or the VA,” Bedik says, “We ourselves are patriotic individuals. But being patriotic doesn’t mean turning your back on an issue because you don’t want anyone to know that the U.S. military is hurting. It means just the opposite. It means we care about those who risk their lives to protect us and we will do what we have to in order to protect them.”

“We found organizations that will help these guys at no cost and without the red tape and bureaucracy they often experience with the VA,” explained Valentine. “We also found out that the VA thinks they can’t afford to help 100% of soldiers suffering from PTSD, but we proved that treating them is actually cheaper than not treating them! Treatment would pay for itself in two years.”

The film will probably be shown at film festivals initially. You can see the trailer here.