GCU event presents perspectives on the trauma of war

08 April 2016

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) is hosting an event presenting two historical perspectives on the trauma of war.

In the run up to the centenary of the Battle of the Somme – one of the largest battles of World War I in which more than 1,000,000 men were wounded or killed – GCU and collaborating academics from the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare (CSHHH) have invited two special guests to analyse the impact of war on the psychiatry of soldiers.

Historian and documentary film producer Ben Shephard will present ‘From Shell-shock to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - Contrasts and Continuities’, in which he will consider whether shell shock in World War I is the same thing as modern Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Comparing World War I with wars from other historical eras, he will consider whether a soldier's response to war is determined by biochemistry, or by social, cultural and political factors.

Brendan Kelly, Professor of Psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin and Consultant Psychiatrist at Tallaght Hospital, will present a historical perspective on trauma, with a special focus on World War I.

His presentation will consider ‘Shell shock and its treatment at the Richmond War Hospital, Dublin (1916–19)’. Between 1916 and 1919 the Richmond War Hospital in Dublin treated over 300 soldiers with shell shock and other mental disorders. Despite its limitations, it was a forward-looking institution that pointed the way for future reform of Ireland’s asylum system, and helped facilitate significant changes to the practice of psychiatry.

Ben Shepherd, GCU Reader in History, who has organised the event, said: “The Somme centenary, at the midway point of the World War I centenary commemorations, is a fitting opportunity to re-consider the enormous mental cost to the soldiers who fought in that conflict, and the ways in which the medical establishment responded. The GCU history research group and the CSHHH have brought together two of the leading historians in the field for this timely examination, in what promises to be an evening of fascinating and lively discussion.”  

The Trauma of War event will take place on Thursday, April 14, at Glasgow Caledonian University in room 401 of the George Moore Building, with networking and drinks from 5pm and presentations starting at 5.30pm, followed by a Q&A.