Because it was Remembrance Day on Sunday there have been many documentaries on TV about the Great War. One of the documentaries was about the poet Wilfred Owen who served and died as a soldier.
During the war he suffered (along with 20,000 other men) from shell shock. Because of the horrific conditions in the trenches, being bombarded with bullets and having to bury dead bodies everyday, it’s no wonder that so many men suffered mentally as well as physically.
Ignorance - Unfortunately back then people didn’t understand what shell-shock was. When men displayed symptoms of uncontrollable shaking it was thought it was caused by injury of the nerves or cowardice.
Horrific Treatments – One way that doctors dealt with the men was electric shock treatment. It was thought that the pain from the shock would be so much worse than anything experienced at war that the men would be more than willing to go back.
Wilfred was one of the lucky ones and instead went to Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh where a new form of treatment was being practised. What was this treatment? Occupational Therapy.
Occupational Therapy allowed victims to re-adjust to normal life by carrying out simple activities such as arts and crafts along with nature watching. For 90% of patients this simple treatment was successful.
Luckily our attitudes to such illnesses have changed over the years. It’s heart breaking to think that some men were convicted for “desertion” and punished by being shot to death. They were simply suffering from severe stress.