| Long after soldiers have exited the theatre of war, the conflict of the mind can rage on unabated |
Last year, the Pakistan Medical Association said that rates of depression in the country were much higher than the world average. It was during his time in Pakistan and Afghanistan that former Financial Times and Reuters correspondent Matthew Green started seriously exploring the subject of mental health. Green’s book, ‘Aftershock’ is a masterful study on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the military and will deeply resonate for all those struggling with some form of stress, anxiety, depression and trauma in societies across the world.
Long after soldiers have exited the theatre of war, the conflict of the mind can rage on unabated. War veterans who must come to terms with the unimaginable horrors faced in combat can provide new insights for civilians suffering from depression. “I met a number of remarkable veterans who had gone through terrible suffering but as a result of that had arrived at a new understanding of themselves; and I think that’s a lesson they really have to teach us. There is often a much deeper meaning to these experiences than we first realise,” Green told me during a conversation in London after the release of his book.
He told me about how trauma is an actual physical injury to the brain that must be treated. “Although it’s invisible, it causes lasting changes in the brain which makes it impossible for sufferers to regulate their emotions. Trauma is as much a physical injury as a broken leg but it’s still considered something you can get over with will power – but you can’t – you need the right support”.
His book discusses new therapies which help to repair the neural pathways that have been disrupted by traumatic incidents. “Although the book is about the military, I was really curious about the lessons soldiers had to teach the rest of society about tackling psychological injury and finding ways to heal it – because the book is very much about how we can transform trauma,” explains Green.
“Depression strikes the famous and unknown alike. While we have been riveted over the past few months with news of high profile suicides, this growing health problem hits close to home for far more people than we often acknowledge”
Green is currently running a course on ways to help those affected by trauma, drawing on his own personal struggle with depression. He believes that “depression can be an initiation into a greater depth of connection, fulfilment and personal power” – an important message for those caught up in what can often be a treacherous downward spiral.
Often those suffering from PTSD and depression are unfairly viewed as people who ‘won’t help themselves’. We need to be more emphatic, as a classic symptom of PTSD and other forms of depression is a reluctance to seek help. “One of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder is avoidance. Sufferers can become very withdrawn and reclusive. We need a much better system to catch the most vulnerable who at the moment are still falling through the safety nets,” asserts Green.
In his book, Green also highlights how the ancient practice of meditation gradually changes the way in which the body responds to stress. Similarly, Vipassana, often known as insight meditation has proven effective in helping to overcome depression and anxiety.
Depression strikes the famous and unknown alike.
While we have been riveted over the past few months with news of high profile suicides, this growing health problem hits close to home for far more people than we often acknowledge. Green’s work reminds us that with the right knowledge and support, there is a way forward towards a better life.
By: Mashaal Gauhar