cover image After the War: Surviving PTSD and Changing Military Culture

After the War: Surviving PTSD and Changing Military Culture

Stéphane Grenier, with Adam Montgomery. Univ. of Regina (IPS, U.S. dist.; UTP, Canadian dist.), $21.95 trade paper (275p) ISBN 978-0-88977-533-6

Retired Canadian Forces lieutenant colonel and mental health advocate Grenier and military historian Montgomery (The Invisible Injured) take the reader on a no-nonsense journey through the double hell of the Rwandan genocide and the disheartening battle with Canadian military brass to recognize the trauma experienced by many veterans. Grenier begins with horrific, stomach-churning descriptions of the mass atrocities he witnessed, including finding a boy the age of his own son among the victims of an ambush. He explains that he included this material in order to provide context for his subsequent emotional and psychic breakdown. His account of his growing estrangement from his family and colleagues is nuanced and without hyperbole, an excellent recounting of the long-term damage caused by what he terms “operational stress injury.” Further trauma comes in a sense of betrayal as he spends years fighting the chain of command for recognition of veterans’ mental health challenges. That battle is subsequently mirrored in his confrontation with a conservative, dogmatic medical establishment that’s wary of a peer support model he developed for returning soldiers. His prescription for change includes eliminating stigma, creating less toxic workplaces, and introducing situation-specific supports that bypass what he calls the rigid and outmoded approaches in military and psychiatric hierarchies. As psychologically wounded warriors continue to return home, this surprisingly hopeful addition to the growing body of post-trauma literature will prove valuable for soldiers and civilians alike. (Feb.)