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Shell Shock - The Tragic History of PTSD

The world was rejoicing at the end of the gloomy four years of the First World War, (unaware of the fact that the second one was yet to come), and the peacemakers at the Paris Peace Conference were busy making the peace treaties. While new border lines began to form and life came back to normal, few of the people were still stuck in the borders of their own brain, in the hell of its own games.

Around 80,000 cases of Shell Shock were registered right after the end of the First World War. These people were all soldiers who had fought in the frontline. Nobody had seen this before, nobody knew the cure for it, it was like an epidemic of a mental disorder. Many at first related shell shock to exploding shells, which might have caused carbon monoxide to affect the brain but soon it was found out that it was a mental health issue, today more commonly known as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

A victim of Shell Shock, also known as soldier’s hearts, would show symptoms of helplessness, anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, and paralysis. Many of those who survived never returned to the battlefield, but many didn’t survive at all. Sometimes, as people were new to this, the treatments were often hazardous. It took a lot of time to actually understand the problem and find a suitable cure.

However, a shocking part about the shell shock was that the victims were treated as cowards. Cowards because of a mental health issue? Cowards because they risked their life and now are facing the consequences? What is not so shocking about this is that we haven't changed. Showing compassion and understanding it is one thing, but not even knowing that it exists is completely mind-boggling.

Hundreds of soldiers still return home with the symptoms of PTSD, and to not forget, PTSD could happen to everyone. It could be after sexual harassment, a tragic accident, and even childhood negligence. In India alone, there are more than 10 million cases per year!

My point is that we are equally ignorant to it, as we were during the beginning of the 20th century. We have not progressed.

The question is why. Why are we so ignorant? Why are we not aware of it? The answer is simple. We haven’t been taught about it. Neither at school nor at home. But now that you know about it, here are a few tips on how to help people dealing with PTSD.

The first would be to always show compassion. It's one of those things that can make any situation better. Secondly, show understanding. Show that you understand their problem. Thirdly, always take to them a specialist as soon as possible. Therapy can really help too.

And last but not the least, educate people around you because it is important for people to know that “you cannot heal in the same environment where you got sick.”


Written for the organization, The Entangle Minds.


©Aaira Goswami, 2020. All rights reserved.

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