Student film features struggles with PTSD

By Rob Bradfield
Staff Writer

In an upcoming film, Baylor students are picking up the story of some soldiers where war movies like “Jarhead” and “The Hurt Locker” end.

Written and directed by Waco senior Ben Palich, “To Depart Indefinitely” is the story of a soldier’s struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Palich will begin filming in early March and plans on premiering the film at Baylor’s Black Glasses Film Festival on April 28.

The film is based on the true story of a friend of Palich’s older brother who had trouble adjusting after coming home from a tour of duty. Palich said the personal connection is what drew him to the subject matter.

“We tried to make it more about his coming home and trying to readjust to society,” Palich said.

According to the National Center for PTSD, military members often develop the disorder as result of direct exposure to combat. Things that might increase a soldier’s chance of developing PTSD include heavy drinking, a loss of a loved one, previous trauma or a feeling of helplessness during the traumatic event. Between 11 and 20 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are diagnosed with PTSD. According to the Center, those with PTSD can experience flashbacks, paranoia, quick mood changes and heightened tension in stressful situations.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, treatment is normally administered through the Veterans Affairs hospitals or private medical facilities, and includes therapy, group sessions and medication. Even when treatment is available, some veterans cannot or choose not to receive it.

The National Center for PTSD states that the most important thing for returning soldiers is a strong social support network. Loved ones are especially important to the readjustment process.

“To Depart Indefinitely” explores what happens to soldiers without a strong social system, and how some levels of public support can be inadequate.

“I feel like it raises a valid question about what we can be doing to support our troops, aside from just saying ‘support our troops,’” Kansas City, Kan., senior Brent Kennedy, the film’s director of photography, said.

The idea of what it means to support troops is present throughout “To Depart Indefinitely.”

Palich said the theme came from his acquaintance’s frustration with the popular ideas of supporting troops through measures such as bumper stickers and car magnets.

To him, well-meant words of support often rang hollow when they weren’t backed up with action.

That attitude prompted Palich and Kennedy to start asking the questions about how veterans are treated in society, and how quickly their sacrifices can be forgotten.

“This is something that most people are ignorant to, not necessarily because they wanted to ignore it, but because it’s something that we kind of sweep under the rug,” Palich said.