The Hurt Locker and PTSD
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder that runs through our military system and is often vastly overlooked. It is a little-known mental health problem that is poorly understood. It can be traced back to the times of the Civil War and has been given names like shell-shocked syndrome, PTSD, soldier's heart, and combat fatigue. A soldier who has experienced combat or military exposure of any level of severity can be susceptible to this anxiety disorder and its symptoms. The Hollywood film The Hurt Locker, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, depicts the American soldier’s battles with PTSD and shows how drastic its effects can be. There is a whole other world between life on the battlefield and life on the home front. PTSD began to turn up on the public's radar in the past decade due to the growing numbers of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans seeking treatment for the illness. Victims of PTSD do not show any physical problems, which is often why family, friends, and military personnel can overlook the disorder. Returning veterans often show signs of PTSD by isolating themselves from friends and family, spending a lot of time alone, and using alcohol or drugs to cope with the emotional pain. Bad memories of the traumatic event haunt the victim and make them think, "why can't I function right now" (The Soldier's Heart"). In recent years, with US invasions in the Middle East, the military is facing scrutiny for not doing enough to warn, prepare, and force soldiers to get help. The Hurt Locker is an award winning film that depicts the trials of an Army bomb-disposal unit in Afghanistan. It shows the struggles and stresses that each soldier in the unit has to face on a day-to-day basis in explicit, pain staking detail. Every day they go out to do their job could be their last. Any of the events that these soldiers go through could end up triggering an anxiety disorder while they are in the field or once they have returned home. Specialist Owen Eldridge is one of the main characters and is already showing signs of PTSD at the beginning of the film. His mannerisms give away that he is battling with something internally and he is regularly meeting with a doctor. In one of his meetings he talks about his anxiety being the worst when he is holding a gun. He describes how with one pull of the trigger he can save one of his fellow soldier's lives and also end the life of some else. This scene foreshadows a future event in the film because Eldridge is faced with the exact situation in which he described. When his unit is being held down in the desert from concealed sniper fire, he witnesses enemy movement on the train tracks behind them. Forced with the decision to shoot or be shot at, he makes the decision to shoot and kill the enemy before he actually showed signs of aggression. It ended up being the right call but it’s easy for the viewer to see the distress and panic Eldridge felt through his eyes. Matters for him get worse when the doctor he had been seeing is killed right in front of him by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). He had previously explained to the doctor that he did not know what it was like when they were out in the field. The then doctor decided to go out with them on their next mission and was killed in the process. Eldridge was so shocked with his death that, even though he saw him die right in front of him, he kept asking his unit where he was and that yelling that they need to find him. Events similar to these could be responsible for future emotional problems like the ones related to Marine Captain Scott Sciple. He received three purple hearts and one gold star for his duties in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was cleared for a fifth tour of duty by the marines and during his stay home he was involved with a car accident in which he killed the other driver. Sciple registered a BAC three times the legal limit. His lawyer is going to present an insanity defense...
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