Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Australian researcher study whether theatre performances, workshops can break stigma of mental illness among veterans

From ABC News in Australia:

Queensland researchers are investigating whether theatre performances and workshops can help break the stigma of mental illness among veterans.

They are collecting the stories of returned service men and women and their families in an attempt to help them recover from war.

Returned Serviceman's League Queensland president Doug Formby says when soldiers return home it can be hard for them to shut the door on their battlefield experiences.

"They do have to deal with being in combat, they do have to deal with the fact that some of their mates have been killed, they're away from home and their family and their regular contact and they're living in a constant situation of tension," he said.

"Clearly it would play on the mind of anybody."

Kate Hill has watched her husband Cory leave for Afghanistan three times. While she waits at home, her husband is fighting his own battles on foreign soil.

"During deployments I feel like we are not in control of our own lives as a family, we will never again be as we were before," she said.

"Our friendships have changed, our relationships with extended family have changed. The way we see the world has changed and the way people see us has changed."

Her story will be posted online and used in the new Griffith University study that will dramatise the stories of veterans and their families and share them with their colleagues.

Project leader Professor Michael Balfour says it is an attempt to break the stigma of mental health in the military and help soldiers grappling with their experiences on the battlefield.

"A lot of the younger generation of soldiers coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq weren't taking up traditional counselling services, they didn't seem to be engaging with the Department of Veterans Affairs," he said.

"They weren't using the RSL clubs and there was a big kind of question about where these people were going and how they were seeking help."

He says plays developed from the stories will tour military bases and soldiers will be encouraged to participate in workshops afterwards.

"What we wanted to do was extend that and use digital stories as a way to get people to ask questions about what they're going through when they get back from tours of duty," he said.