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Film Project Helps Former American Soldiers

A film project is helping American soldiers deal with mental health problems caused by the violence of war. The condition is called post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. The project gets soldiers to share their experiences with friends, family members and other military veterans.

Three friends are deciding what to do with their lives after completing high school. Their decision: join the United States Army.

But fighting in Afghanistan affected these soldiers. They now suffer from psychological trauma, a condition resulting from what they experienced. The film project lets them make -- and act in -- films in the hope that it will ease their PTSD.

The project is called “I Was There.” It was the idea of Ben Patton, a grandson of George Patton, one of the best-known American generals during World War Two.

Ben Patton is a psychologist and movie producer. He travels to United States Army bases. At each stop, he spends four days helping soldiers tell their stories and express their emotions on film.

“They will go from often being unengaging and unwilling to engage and not really in a situation or a state of mind where they wanna share anything with anyone, even their own family or their battle buddies. And by the end of the, the sessions, by the end of the final session, they have produced -- in collaboration with two or three other fellow veterans -- short films really topically about anything they want, but 95 percent of the time it relates in some way to the service-related stress that they’ve experienced.”

Soldiers taking part in the project have made about 300 films. Mr. Patton says studies done in the weeks after the films were made have shown a 20 percent drop in post-traumatic stress symptoms.

Dr. Rivka Tuval-Mashiach is a clinical psychologist. She serves as an advisor to the program.

“Just being listened to without being judged, without being offered quick solutions, is really very effective in contributing to a higher self-esteem, to have higher self-confidence."

Sergeant Pamela Truitt spoke about her experience with the program.

“Day one you’re coming in, someone like me comes in not feeling at ease at all, and not sure how things are gonna turn out -- to day four I’m coming in here with a smile on my face feelin like I have a purpose in life today.”

Army sergeant Garry Sands wrote and acted in his film, which he called “Crossroads Rise.”

“I just opened myself to the experience and what they were trying to say and took it in and thought, ‘Hey, well let’s see where this goes – maybe we can do something with this,' and it was impressive.”

Sergeant Sands, his wife Claudia and others are being urged to share their film and experiences with family members and friends. Ben Patton says the project is helping veterans and their families recover from the problems created by PTSD.

I’m Christopher Cruise.

VOA correspondent Bernard Shusman reported this story from New York. Christopher Cruise wrote it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in this Story

mental health – n. a person’s feeling or emotion of being well or free from disease

psychological – adj. of or relating to the mind

engage – v. to get and keep someone’s attention or interest

advisor/adviser – n. a financial/legal/medical expert who provides guidance to a person or project

impressive – adj. deserving attention, admiration or respect

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