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Comm Arts Team: Helping Understand PTSD

Nov. 11, 2015

Many veterans when they return home from war face a war within themselves known as post-traumatic stress disorder. With between 10 and 20 percent of all veterans having PTSD, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there have been an increasing number of confrontations between law enforcement officials and veterans with the disorder.

To better understand PTSD and what to do when encountering a veteran showing signs of post-traumatic stress, a College of Communication Arts and Sciences team created a training video for law enforcement agencies to serve as a guide for how they can have a positive impact on veterans in their community who may be struggling with PTSD.

Funded by the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency, the video was co-produced and directed by Amol Pavangadkar, senior producer and specialist in the Department of Media and Information, and a team of 17 College of Communication Arts and Sciences students in collaboration with David Stephens, executive in residence in the School of Criminal Justice.

“We received phenomenal support from the Michigan State Police, police chiefs and sheriffs all over Michigan and their respective departments,” Pavangadkar said. “We worked with veterans from recent wars and going back to the Vietnam War, and their stories and experiences helped shape this training video.”

The short-length video, titled “Invisible Wounds: Preparing first responders for veterans with PTS,” is about 18 minutes long so it can be shown during shift changes before officers go on duty.

Several veterans were interviewed for the video and shared their stories. Due to post-traumatic stress, the veterans say they have lost marriages and have dealt with isolation, alcoholism, drugs and out-of-control anger.

A premiere of the video was held last June in Studio 134-D of the Communication Arts and Sciences Building. It also was shown to the Governor's Council on Law Enforcement and Reinvention. The video is now being used at law enforcement agencies across the state. It can be viewed in three different parts:

  • Part 1: What Is Post-Traumatic Stress
  • Part 2: Encountering a Veteran with Post-Traumatic Stress
  • Part 3: Resources for Veterans
  • Veterans, law enforcement officers and those who worked on the project attended the premiere.

“For all you students, you have no idea the kind of impact you have made with a single video that is not even 20 minutes long,” Jeff Barnes, director of the Michigan Veteran’s Affairs Agency. said after the screening. “So on behalf of the nearly 700,000 veterans in the state of Michigan, I thank you for the work you have done and the time you contributed to it.”

The students who worked on the project did so as a way to gain real-world experience.

“This is the first time I had ever worked on something where I was really using the stuff I had learned in class professionally,” said senior media and information major Trevor Ferla, who was one of the videographers on the project. “Beyond that, I learned a lot about people with PTSD. Doing those interviews and hearing the stories and the ways that you can help people, that also was a big part of the project for me.”

To honor their efforts, Pavangadkar and Stephens were each presented with MVAA Directors medallions for exemplary service towards veterans.

Currently, the 34 hours of video footage collected for this project is being edited and repurposed to create a general outreach and information feature to air on WKAR-TV early next year.

Reprinted with permission from the College of Communication Arts and Sciences.