Luke and Nikita Dallison

‘THE ENEMY WITHIN’: exposing the impact of PTSD on military families 

You could call them Britain’s true conscripts.

At this moment, in homes across the country, thousands of women are fighting lonely, against-the-odds battles to stop the aftershocks from Afghanistan, Iraq and many long-forgotten conflicts from tearing their families apart. Many others are doing their best to come to terms with the confusion, self-doubt and heartbreak of losing their relationships to the insidious effects of the psychological injuries their partners suffered on tour.

For the most part, generations of military families have reckoned with war’s corrosive legacy behind closed doors, uncertain whether even close friends or relatives could ever understand, or how they might react. But over the past 10 days, a group of remarkable women have broken the silence to share intimate, day-to-day portraits of what it’s like to live with veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The centrepiece of this effort is ‘The Enemy Within,’ a radio documentary I co-produced with Eleanor McDowall of Falling Tree, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Saturday night, and is available online here. The documentary, inspired by a chapter on the Combat PTSD Angels support group in Aftershock,  features the audio diaries and reflections of a number of women whose family lives are dominated by the flashbacks, night terrors, emotional numbing or explosive rages of partners in the grip of PTSD.

The documentary generated a wave of coverage in the national press and on BBC news, including:

In the Radio Times, critic Jane Anderson wrote that ‘The Enemy Within’ should be required listening for every MP: “I’ve been doing this job for 16 years now. Nothing I have heard before has ever had such a powerful impact. Please do not miss this.”

In the Observer, radio critic Miranda Sawyer said the documentary was “sensitively put together, with wonderful interviews and beautiful editing and music. Imagine living with someone you love who flips into violence or trauma at the sound of a child’s shouting, or in their sleep, through no fault of their own. A sad highlight of the week.”

I’d like to thank everyone who took part for their time and commitment to bringing such an emotive and all-too-often hidden subject to national attention. Particular thanks go to the Ripple Pond and Combat PTSD Angels for their crucial support at the outset. I’d also like to give an additional thanks to the journalist Justin Quirk, who had the vision to see the scope for a radio programme, and Adrian Lacey, the radio producer extraordinaire and presenter of The London Podcast, who went far above and beyond the call of duty to ensure ‘The Enemy Within’ gained maximum exposure.

It is my intent that this kind of coverage will provide further encouragement and insight to the many individuals working in different capacities across the UK to better help people with PTSD. I believe such stories can also play a constructive but uncompromising role in showing those institutions responsible for caring for serving personnel, veterans and their families what needs to change. Britain urgently needs a system capable of providing trauma survivors – both military and civilian – with the care they need to make the fullest possible recovery. There can be few more powerful advocates on their behalf than these courageous, powerful and determined women.