STT News & Course Updates

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

PTSD covered on TV – well almost!

I have been somewhat bombarded this month with requests for help from TV companies. They are interested in looking at Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from a number of different angles and that is because the subject has been very newsworthy recently.

For one company it was a strong interest in the emergency services and PTSD. For another it was the way that soldiers were being affected with traumatic symptoms following tours of duty in Afghanistan or Iraq, or even Northern Ireland.

Both areas of study were of some considerable merit and I was happy to assist in any way that I could with either broadcaster (BBC and Granada). I was aware that working with any television company was always a matter of “hurry up and wait” because they are traditionally madly urgent about signing you up. Then they dangle you on a piece of string while they wait for the other elements of the ‘story’ they are developing actually to slot into place. Only when all the contributors are primed and ready will the producers set the wheels in motion and start filming.

I did drop a slight spanner in the works by daring to mention to one of these television companies the very dirty word - fee!

Anyway, time passed. Emails shuttled back and forth and the occasional telephone call was received by me and things appeared to be developing at the usual pace. The frustrating thing for me is the eternal belief of these TV companies which assume that they always have first call on your time and that everything else you are doing can wait, or be pushed to one side. I swiftly made it clear to both companies that I had other commitments which were carved in stone and just could not be dropped at a moment’s notice. They reluctantly accepted this surprising fact. I have worked with both companies before so I guess we all knew the game the other was playing.

Anyway, when push came to shove, neither company was in a position to continue with the development of the story. The excuses came in thick and fast and placatory words were exchanged in emails and over the phone. I guess I will have to ‘hurry up and wait’ for the next time these people come calling!

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Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Children and Trauma

For a good number of years I have been delivering training on PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and this subject has also been the basis of much of my writing. I am always on the lookout for writing from other people which will either further my own understanding of the subject or show new light on some aspect of the training I deliver.

One of my pet topics is PTSD and children and within that I explore some of the major traumatic events which have involved children. These historic events include the Aberfan disaster of 21st October 1966, the Buffalo Creek flooding on 26th February 1972, the Chowchilla kidnapping of 15th July 1976, and the Jupiter Cruise ship sinking on 21st October 1988. It was with great interest therefore, that I picked up on the blog of M.J.Best where she reflects upon the sinking of the Jupiter twenty years later. She was one of the many school children on that ship that fateful day and even twenty years later (at the age of 35) she has a considerably detailed memory of what happened on that day. She starts off the blog by expressing her deepest desire that writing the piece and sharing it with the world will help her “finally put it to rest”. One of the things which she describes so graphically is the smell of the diesel oil as she slid off the deck of the boat and into the oily sea.

I think this blog illustrates just how valuable the sharing experience can be. Such a terribly traumatic event needs to be shared with others - not to distress them but to help the teller come to understand the smaller details of the event.

The blog is also a reminder of just how important some smells and sounds can be as triggers which stimulate the memory - sometimes of good things, and sometimes of bad things - ‘smell’ is the greatest evocator of memories.

You can read more about the research studies which focused upon the children on the Jupiter Cruise ship in a book called “Wise before the Event” written by William Yule and Anne Gold. Alternatively, I have made some observations of my own in my text book on children and trauma “Supporting Children with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder” and in the course work written for the STT “Living and working with PTSD”. This is a distance learning course about PTSD and is suitable for anyone interested in a detailed study of the disorder.

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