Using the performing arts this project has created a stigma reduction concept that has broad benefits to both the civilian, serving and veteran community (including their friends and family). With the aid of grants and funding from supporting organisations we adapted our pilot project into a nationwide production (for 2017). Another aim of the project is to provide an academic evaluation of Shell Shock: the play with the initial focus on understanding the impact of theatre on the audiences’ comprehension and perception of mental illness in a post-military context (the rationale in doing so is because public perception of mental illness is well received under the umbrella of PTSD).
The play is based upon a novel first published in 2011, by Kosovo and Iraq veteran Neil Watkin (writing as Neil Blower), who was diagnosed with PTSD after leaving the army and encouraged to take up creative writing through the armed forces charity Combat Stress as part of his treatment.
The beneficiaries of this project are broad. In our 2017 pilot tour we worked with a wide audience of interested individuals (from all walks of life) alongside a select invited sample of charity and third sector specialists, military, health and policy specialists (including those with ministerial responsibilities) some of whom were invited to watch the production at one or more of three strategic venues and at major arts festivals in 2017. The estimated impact on direct and indirect beneficiaries was in the region of 1000-2,000 people in this tour.
During this tour we developed the performance to also provide a showcase Q&A session led by support partners Sussex Armed Forces Network (NHS) and the Veterans and Families Institute at Anglia Ruskin University. This event can be rolled out to new locations and audiences and invited guests from NHS England, MoD and other 3rd sector organisations to suit.
The project was initially developed in partnership with the Anglia Ruskin Veterans and Families Institute (providing an academic and professional support case for such a scheme) and Eastbourne College providing the production resources and rehearsal space leading to a number of trials in September 2016 (in the college theatre).
It is envisaged that the impact of the play will have an immediate effect on audience attitudes towards veterans and mental trauma in general. For the purposes of this work we are considering beneficiaries to be anyone that may be influenced by the messages of this production so in reality the number of people reached will be far in excess of projected numbers.
Shell Shock: the play will seek to contribute to the broad aims and successes of programmes such as The Government–sponsored Time to Change programme, to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination within society and in line with Dr Andrew Murrison’s paper Fighting Fit (2010).
We are always looking for support in terms of spreading the message and believe the more venues and tour dates we can achieve the better the outcome for the whole community. If you have any suggestions for venues or are interested in corporate sponsorship we would love to hear from you. We are also very happy to receive any donations towards our nationwide tour aims.
Thank you for your support.