Combat Trauma Through a Century of Conflict

War neurosis and “shell shock” would remain important issues for military and medical authorities long after the end of the Great War. Pensions and treatment for affected soldiers were subject to great debate in the decades following the Second World War and the Korean War. The idea that “shell shock”, battle exhaustion, or combat stress response, was the result of the soldier’s personal failure, remained dominant in diagnosis and treatment.

16.4 %

of regular force veterans who left the canadian armed forces beween 1998 and 2015 were diagnosed with PTSD.
In comparison, about 8 percent of Canadians who experience a traumatic event develop PTSD.

"it's by talking that you jar your memory, but there are a lot of things that I shouldn't talk about. I will take them to my grave. i will never tell anyone. I try to forget. If I have trouble sleeping at night, I don't want to think of those things, because one thing leads to another, and it just keeps going... I'd rather have peace of mind."

St. Anne's Hospital was founded in 1917 to treat wounded personnel and veterans of the Great War. Purchased in 1950 by Veterans Affairs Canada and transferred to provincial jurisdiction in 2012, it primarily serves veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces, specialising in long-term care as well as post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Fight for Recognition and Treatment

Mental health issues also remain a delicate subject in medical circles, both civilian and military. Active soldiers and veterans alike have advocated for recognition, treatment and pensions for disabilities and symptoms associated with combat trauma. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was only recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1980. This was a turning point in the recognition of the stress disorders affecting military personnel, formally recognizing that symptoms of long-term psychological trauma associated with combat and warfare were not caused by a predisposition to mental illness.

St. Anne's Hospital, St. Anne de Bellevue, Quebec.
Curtiss-Reid Flying Service Co. Ltd., 1926-1940
Collection Pierre Monette
National Library and Archives of Quebec