It’s been six months since the publication of Aftershock: the untold story of surviving peace, and I thought I’d send an update on the aftermath.
I don’t believe it’s wishful thinking to state that the book has succeeded in its number one aim: starting new conversations about how we respond to psychological injury – both in the military and society as a whole. It’s my intention that these seeds will ultimately lead to radical innovations in the way we help trauma survivors from all walks of life to heal.
I’m very grateful that Aftershock has garnered a lot of positive coverage, but perhaps more importantly I regularly receive heartfelt emails from readers saying they have drawn inspiration, comfort and insight from stories in the book. (I have included a few quotes below). I’ve also been approached numerous times after speaking events by people who have bought Aftershock in the hope of being able to better support a friend or relative who is struggling with the transition to civilian life or who may be battling symptoms of post-traumatic stress. I hope that in the years to come the experiences people have courageously shared in the book will make a lasting contribution towards eroding the stigma that sadly still lurks around discussions of mental health in and outside the forces, and encourage others to explore new avenues to recovery.
INFLUENCING THE MILITARY
Aftershock is making in-roads into the military itself. I’ve received very enthusiastic feedback from a number of personnel directly responsible for mental healthcare and several senior officers have expressed an interest in inviting me to speak at leadership courses. I’m hoping such events will provide further opportunities to spread the message that we can do a better job of healing invisible wounds by embracing some of the pioneering approaches and insights from neuroscience explored in the book.
If anybody feels like adding a sentence-long review to the Aftershock page on Amazon then I’d be delighted as the more that are posted, the more prominently the book is advertised. The widely-read Army Rumour Service has also run a very positive review on its site.
FORGING NEW CONNECTIONS
The book has served as a catalyst for some lively events bringing together a wide range of people from the military and civilian mental health worlds, including discussions organised in conjunction with Tom Harrison House, a veterans’ addictions charity in Liverpool, NHS Tayside in Perth (featured on Forces TV) and at the Special Forces Club in Knightsbridge. There’s also been great interest at packed talks at Britain’s literary festivals including in Ilkley, Wigtown, Dundee, Bath, Glasgow and Oxford. (Details of forthcoming events below). We also have a big panel discussion planned for the evening of Thursday, May 19 hosted by the National Army Museum in London, where I will be speaking alongside Afghanistan veteran Jake Wood and Dr Fiona Reid, an expert on military psychiatry in the First World War.
AFTERSHOCK IN PARLIAMENT
Politicians are taking note. Aftershock was referenced during a parliamentary debate on veterans’ mental health services on October 14 by Johnny Mercer MP, who warned his fellow legislators they should read it before indulging in “back-slapping” on improvements in provision. It’s also good to see the NHS has recently launched a consultation on this issue.
To raise the pressure, a group called VeteransVoiceUK, which campaigns for better support for veterans and their families, is hosting a “Big Conversation” on Twitter this Friday at 20:00. I will also be participating – to tune in follow @VeteransVoiceUK and #MilMH.
GOOD NEWS ON FUNDING
It’s also great to see that two of the excellent organisations featured in Aftershock have coincidentally won significant funding in the past few weeks. Tom Harrison House has just been selected to work alongside the Royal British Legion and Mersey Care to provide addictions services for ex-forces, funded by a £405,000 grant from the Armed Forces Covenant. (Here’s a story I wrote about Tom Harrison House for ViceUK).
The IFEAL Dare to Live programme, featured in the chapter in Aftershock on equine therapy, has just won a £50,000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund which will allow it to provide places for 40 veterans to attend its life-changing courses. (Any one who is interested to apply can click here).
I’d like also to share details of an opportunity for ex-forces to join a research programme run with the approval of Anglia Ruskin University and Help for Heroes in which participants will learn a new method to improve sleep and stop nightmares.
Meanwhile, I have been commissioned to produce a number of follow-up stories exploring issues raised in Aftershock in more depth and would welcome input on any of the below:
New therapies: an in-depth feature for an international magazine on new trauma therapies drawing on the latest insights from neuroscience. I travelled to Canada in February to witness a neuro-imagining study in London, Ontario as part of my research.
Forces wives and partners: a 30-minute documentary for Radio 3’s “Between The Ears” programme on the struggles faced by military wives and partners whose spouses are suffering from PTSD. (I would love to find more carers to participate in this in the coming months).
Sexual harassment: a story for a UK-based media outlet investigating the scale of sexual harassment / abuse of women serving in the military and what might be done to improve matters. (Again, if anybody wishes to speak about their own experiences of this, anonymously if they prefer, I’d be very keen to hear from them).
NEW AFTERSHOCK BLOG
If you wish to receive updates as these stories are published or notification of other talks please do ‘Like’ my Matthew Green Journalism Facebook page or follow me on @Matthew__Green.
I’ve also launched a blog on new horizons in trauma therapy to pass on any insights I glean along the way. (Anyone who is interested can sign up to receive occasional posts at my homepage here).
I’d like to say another big thank you for all the time, patience and generosity I received while researching this book, which has been a team effort from the start. I’m committed to my mission to keep showing how we can do a better job helping trauma survivors to recover, and appreciate any help you might be able to offer in spreading the word about the book.
I discuss collective approaches to healing trauma with Theatre of War director Bryan Doerries featured in this ‘In Conversation‘ on on Granta.com
DETAILS OF FORTHCOMING EVENTS:
Army and Navy Club, May 19
Norwich Literary Festival, May 21
Hay Literary Festival, June 2, probably at 5:30pm
Edinburgh Literary Festival: August 14, 2:15pm, Garden Theatre
Cheltenham Literary Festival: October 13 (tbc)
SOME SELECTED EMAIL COMMENTS FROM READERS:
“I would just like to say thank you. What you have highlighted in your book is almost a mirror image of what I have been going through since my return from Afghanistan …Like your book highlights, there is nobody who wants to take responsibility for you. They are all out there, but trying to get help that you need, the hoops you have to jump through, it’s like a betrayal. I had done my part, now I wanted some help for myself – it just was not there. I thought it was just me who had been let down badly, but from your book, and the way things are set up, there is no wonder people are slipping through the gaps. So thanks again for a great book, which gave me a bit of sanity back.” – former soldier
“I have just finished reading your book, and it is still resonating in me…I am a mental health nurse but I am new to veterans issues and understanding the veteran population and though I have been researching every day, your book made it all the more personal.” – mental health nurse at a military charity
“I’ve been zooming through Aftershock – I can’t put it down now. So many pennies are dropping, as I now realise what was actually happening in various situations with certain people throughout my life – explains odd reactions, strange behaviour, violent reactions…I really want GPs to read this book and to learn from it.” – former forces wife
“I’ve found your book through my local library while doing research for my own book on beating PTSD. It is a treasure trove, and I’m blown away by it. There is nothing around like your book Matthew, and it should be mandatory reading for all officers and NCOs.” – Australian Vietnam Veteran
“I have just finished Aftershock. I have been immersed in the subject. I have a friend with PTSD who is still in the army. I haven’t assumed to send the book to him, but rather to his sister, who then will make the judgement as to whether he is in a state to read it. So many of the stories of the men and women, which leapt off the page at me, resonated with what my friend and his family have been through, are going through.” – friend of a soldier
“I wanted to write to say thank you for writing Aftershock… It gives me faith to read that there are those willing to confront PTSD and provide a voice for ex-servicemen and their families.” – veteran who suffered from trauma
“I felt I had to write to you. I work for a well known forces charity as a caseworker…After reading your book I’ve arrived at the conclusion that we have an epidemic of PTSD…I cannot comprehend how our forces are being ignored and badly let down.” – caseworker with a military charity
“It is a tremendous tome which exposes a hidden and much maligned pandemic amongst ex-servicemen and women and will, I hope, encourage more progressive thinking in the military. But on a personal level it has helped me to understand a lot more about the physical and neurological side of PTSD as well as some of the ways and means of overcoming it beyond ‘talk therapy’ – that there is a way out of the spiral.” – photojournalist
Garrison Girl- Sarah @GarrisonGirls
Brilliantly written…Once started reading couldn’t put down
Jane Kindlen @lilstix
‘Aftershock’ is very informative; aiding my preparation for supporting veterans…Thank you.
Pam Stoney @PamStoney1
Finding this helpful in so many ways – Thank you.