Mental Health of WWII Veterans & FamiliesMay 26, 2021
When our veterans returned from World War II, many had invisible wounds. Mental health issues, which ranged from mild to severe. The propaganda and programming of society (in the U.S. and abroad) was to not talk about these possible or diagnosed issues. To let the veteran deal with it on his own and the family to allow whatever happened. There was a lot of familial shame, grief, and anger around veterans mental health. These emotions which led to secrets at the time and which were passed through the generations.
It is interesting to realize that after the war, many families were going through similar things, but the public was basically told to buck up and move on. We can see in books written by Holocaust survivors or children or grandchildren of WWII veterans, that most carry a portion of a story that goes something like this: I didn’t know until I was older that my friends on my block all had fathers who drank or were mean or angry. I thought it was normal to have a father who wasn’t around, who wasn’t emotional, who drank a lot, who beat us…… I didn’t know until I saw a therapist to deal with my issues related to my childhood that many children of veterans had similar PTSD issues.
I am aware that most of the readers of this article can related to all of this information. Not everything may apply to your family and situation, but something might. It might trigger a memory or a story once heard, that raises questions. The trigger might also push something old and dark within you to the surface to be looked at and healed. Please realize that every veteran who returned, came back different. They all had issues to reconcile because you can’t go from being a God fearing, Thou Shalt Not Kill man to a soldier who has killed without changing. Even in families where the children and grandchildren say the veteran was calm, loving, productive, peaceful, etc., beneath that carefully constructed facade likely lied unresolved trauma. It was a rare veteran who had all the tools to come back, readjust, and transmit zero trauma to his family or future generations. You might read my article, Trauma of Being the ‘Bad Guy’ in War if you have not. This addresses some of these issues.
Experiments and Treatments
During and after World War II, veterans with diagnosed or suspected mental health issues were in large part, used as experiments on techniques, technology, and drugs. This may be hard for some people to believe, but if you had a family member who suffered at all from PTSD, Shell Shock, Combat Fatigue, or whatever term they were labeled with, I invite you to dig into the research. Not only do the books and website recommended below talk about this but if you dive into official medical unit files, you will learn about all kinds of experiments the military ran on veterans while overseas and at home. You should read some of the records I have read. It is shocking.
I often wonder how many diagnoses were given out that were incorrect because the psychiatrists and psychologists of the time did not have enough information. Or perhaps they were under pressure to IGNORE the fact that military service, the trauma endured, the killer men had to be, the death and dying of buddies, created mental health issues. When we ignore what is really happening, it opens up a space to abuse.
On the other side of this coin, we have the spiritual self, the soul, that was also damaged because of war trauma, both was the veteran experienced and what he had to inflict to do his job. It has been documented, especially by Dr. Edward Tick, War & the Soul or Warrior’s Return, were we see the soul fragment and detach from the soldier while he is under extreme stress. Native Americans and African Tribal Culture is explained in the book about how they welcome returning veterans and help them, as a village, bring the soul back to the body. To help the warrior forgive himself and others. The militaries around the world have never taken this approach. It is all about transforming a civilian into a soldier, then a soldier returns and is lucky to get any transition support back to civilian or to deal emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally with what he did.
All of these things affected the family that lived with or supported the returning veteran after World War II, and this unresolved, undigested trauma was transmitted to the extended family, the children, grandchildren, and so on. Energy carries even when you keep secrets or tell lies about what happened. Children especially pick up on this energy and will often “fill in the blanks” about what happened, often incorrectly, but still creating trauma in their bodies and energy fields that could have been avoided if people would have been open.
I have had both the experience of hearing secrets and lies about my own family’s war experience and that of European in-laws. Not only did I hear from the living, but also from the dead. My grandfather, great grand uncle, and cousins who died in war have all given clues and told me things that have helped me better understand what my parents went through, why they held certain beliefs and why I held those beliefs. Additionally, why we all carried unresolved trauma.
On the European side, the in-laws are both deceased but have shown up often. The mother in-law to be more specific as she carried so much trauma that she passed to her children which is still unhealed. Often when she shows up it is incredibly intense and sometimes brings me to my knees in grief and tears, pain and anger. There are times I have had to say NO to her and let her work it out or go find someone else to help her. It is not my job to help everyone heal when they show up at the expense of my own health and happiness.
What I have noticed in talking with friends in Europe and living there over the last many years, is Europeans carry a lot of unseen, unspoken, but harmful layers of war trauma. A lot of mental health issues after the war I suspect were never addressed. A lot of people “settling” and marrying someone they may not have if the war had not forced them together in a traumatic circumstance. This isn’t to say there wasn’t love over time, but for many, even in books and accounts we hear today from children and grandchildren of war, they had no one else so they chose who they chose. This also affects people’s mental health in carried energy ways.
How Do We Start To Heal?
We attempt to have open and honest conversations with family members about our veteran’s history and experience.
We do the research required to learn more about the veteran’s experience, no matter where it leads us.
We explore the family beliefs, positive and negative patterns that we carry or observe. We look at ways to heal those patterns and negative beliefs so they stop with us. When we heal ourselves, we heal the collective.
We reach out to mental health professionals or intuitive or energy healers to dive deeper into our subconscious. To connect with those who have gone before us to see what messages come through. To bring the dark to light and heal.
This is not easy work and not fun. I have been diving deeply for years, but I can say with certainty, the negative beliefs and patterns are stopping with me. I have noticed that my healing has affected those in my family and those connected to me, even if they do not notice this or are consciously aware. I was chosen for this work. It has changed me in so many amazing ways. I will not stop digging for the “truth” on my healing journey.
Resources to Explore
Use the online newspapers to search for keywords like, veteran mental health, veteran psychiatry, returning veterans mental health, and specific diagnoses.
Blog: Oldfoolrn has many articles on Downey VA Hospital north of Chicago. This nurse gives a lot of great information (and very sad) about how veterans were treated and experimented on after the war.
Psychology for the Fighting Man. What You Should Know About Yourself and Others. An Infantry Journal book, 1944.
A Psychiatric Primer for the Veteran’s Family and Friends by Alexander G. Dumas and Grace Graham Keen. 1945.
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