PTSD – The Walking Wounded is a documentary about the aftereffects of post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans of America’s 21st-century wars, as well as how even the smallest bit of support can make a world of difference and even save lives. It was made by David Lionheart, founder of Play for Your Freedom, an organization that encourages fitness and assistance for veterans who may not know how else to find help. The group started small but has grown in size over the years thanks to outreach and positive outcomes for the men and women who participate. Lionheart hasn’t stopped trying to help those who served the United States, and PTSD is another step in helping some soldiers, or their surviving families, tell their stories as a way of helping those who may not have the help they need.
The documentary emphasizes the importance of helping people wherever you can, even if that means starting small. Appropriately, the documentary itself is pretty small-scale, with only five interview subjects: Lionheart, a handful of veterans, and Jillian Nadiak, whose brother died by suicide after suffering from improperly diagnosed PTSD and an inappropriate medical prescription to painkillers during the onset of the opioid epidemic. The focus on these speakers allows their stories to be told in detail, which is a boon to the movie as they cover quite a lot of ground in a short amount of time.
Lionheart speaks to his subjects about their experiences abroad and also dives into how it feels to come home to a civilian life not tailored to the military expertise and structure to which many grow accustomed. Suddenly, everything you’ve grown to rely on, down to your very vocation, is just background. Marriages that may or may not have survived the geographic separation are put to the test. Pain, both mental and physical, can lead to addictions with few guardrails to stop it. The veterans interviewed are very open about mistakes they feel they made along the way, including issues with anger and drug abuse. Suicide, one of the largest causes of death for veterans, is discussed in emotional detail.
PTSD doesn’t shy away from dark territory but ultimately travels there in service of emphasizing Lionheart’s overall mission — bringing light to these issues and providing positive, maybe even counterintuitive, ways to help veterans reacclimate to civilian life. One of the key elements of helping those in pain, Lionheart believes, is building a community that discusses these issues openly and engages members in finding help with others rather than trying to go it alone. The United States was engaged in multiple wars across 20 years and has finally ended its longest occupation. That doesn’t mean the fight is over for everyone who invested in it. PTSD is a thoughtful look at what challenges lay ahead for those who served, with meaningful ideas on how to help them.