There & Back Again: A Soldier’s Journey

In a couple months, the 15th Annual PRISM Awards will honor a new group of nominees and the entertainment professionals who have dedicated themselves to accurately depicting health and social issues in their field.

This past year there has been an increase in awareness of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affecting our soldiers. It is a very real threat to our beloved military men and women, and it is not one that is going to disappear any time soon. The National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder estimates that for every 100 veterans of the Afghanistan War (Operation: Enduring Freedom), 6-11 of these courageous service men and women are living with PTSD, and for every 100 veterans of the Iraq War (Operation: Iraqi Freedom), the same is true for 12-20 of these men and women. Our creative community’s role to accurately tell stories about PTSD is paramount to deterring stigma from reeling out of control.

Actor Kevin McKidd at the 14th Annual PRISM Awards

Kevin McKidd’s (Grey’s Anatomy) performance as a doctor returning from the Middle East suffering from severe PTSD earned him the PRISM Award for “Performance in a Drama Series Multi-Episode Storyline” last year through his authentic portrayal. McKidd was able to foster the understanding of millions of Americans about a very real threat to our military men and women. Not only could the country identify with him as a character on our television screen, but suddenly Dr. Hunt became the face of our loved ones fighting for our safety and sacrificing their personal health and well-being for our own security. The writers hit a bull’s eye, thus the episodes comprising the storyline were also nominated!

With this being said, let’s be mindful of the fact that the majority of our returning soldiers are adjusting to life smoothly. Our dedication to accurate depictions should not lead us to over or under diagnoses. It is important to emphasize that, despite the serious nature of this illness, every service man and woman is not destined toward depression. When creatively taking on the issue of PTSD through drama or comedy, we must ask ourselves: is my portrayal of an individual creating a stereotype about soldiers with the disorder? Am I contributing to the harmful nature of stigma? Can I do better and not compromise my creative integrity?

Kevin McKidd has again been nominated for a performance award in the drama category, as has the episode of Grey’s Anatomy that featured his nominated performance. Other shows have tactfully addressed depicting the lives of service men and women throughout this year: shows like The Pacific and E! Investigates special on “Military Wives,” are both nominated for PRISM Awards.

As we continue moving forward, I am proud to see how hard our creative community works to inform and educate our society about PTSD, while enhancing entertainment value. These accurate portrayals within storytelling add a dimension of truth and ultimately bring genuine information to our communities. When it gets to playing with the emotions of our service men and women, and their families, dedication to not exploiting the complex circumstances of our soldiers at war, is a most respectful statement to show our veterans that they are appreciated.

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