For those who served during the First World War, the conflict brought many unimaginable struggles. Yet these struggles did not end when the servicemen returned home.
While there’s evidence suggesting that soldiers in earlier wars had suffered what we might recognise today as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it was the experiences of 1914-18 that embedded the concept of psychological trauma in the medical, military and wider worlds.
Alongside the men who returned home with missing limbs or disfigured faces, there were those who bore the invisible wounds of war. Their suffering brought the concept of ‘shellshock’ into the national consciousness.
Combat Stress was founded in 1919. For the last 100 years, it has been the only charity focused solely on the mental health of former service personnel. Charting the charity’s progress across the century, Dr Rachel Duffett will discuss how it provides an insight into the way in which society’s attitudes towards military mental health have shifted, from the almost complete incomprehension that met returning First World War soldiers to an acknowledgement of the PTSD experienced by veterans of the recent Afghanistan conflict.
Dr Rachel Duffett is a social and cultural historian whose main research interest is the impact of war on British society and its army. Her book ‘100 Years of Veterans' Mental Health’ was produced in conjunction with Combat Stress as part of their centenary commemorations. She has published widely in numerous academic journals. She has also contributed to radio, TV programmes, film and podcasts on the First World War.