Two professors from different disciplines work together to remove PTSD stigma
June 18, 2012
Peggy Shannon wants to know if ancient Greek plays can offer catharsis to today’s military men and women.
The Ryerson Theatre School chair will travel to Greece with 34 Ryerson undergraduate and graduate students, artists and colleague Candice Monson, professor and director of clinical training in psychology, for a month of performances, workshops and an international conference. The plays are a combination of artistic creation and mental health research to help people understand the science behind post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The performances coincide with the first International Women and War Conference taking place from July 3 to 5 in Hydra, Greece. Members of the academic, military, artistic, mental health and political communities will gather to exchange and discuss research on the experience of women before, during and after war. The conference will coincide with a Women & War photo exhibition July 1 to 8 depicting 60 images from 1945 to 1990 that portray women’s roles in war. The photos were gathered from the Black Star Collection at Ryerson.
The project has been a labour of love for Shannon for more than a year.
“I wanted it to be global, to be more than just putting on a play,” Shannon said. “I want women to really engage with the material and look at it from a female lens.”
The inspiration for this project was Shannon’s role as a mother and always questioning what she would do if her child went off to war. Her aim is that the performances combined with the workshops will spark dialogue and awareness about the realities of post-traumatic stress disorder.
“We want to work across sectors to co-create solutions for PTSD,” she said, adding that while post-traumatic stress disorder is the most treatable of mental health issues, the challenge is treating the stigma.
Women & War will feature three plays directed by Shannon, based on ancient Greek characters, plays and themes such as self-sacrifice and justice. Ryerson dancers are participating and the entire cast has been rehearsing for five weeks before heading to Greece for another two weeks of rehearsals. Award-winning playwrights Judith Thompson, Timberlake Wertenbaker and Velina Hasu Houston have written the plays.
Also part of the project, Monson will interview female veterans and, together with Shannon, will offer several drama-therapy workshops to female soldiers. During these sessions, small groups of women will discuss and act out their experiences of war and explore relaxation techniques. The researchers plan to expand the workshops at military bases across Canada starting next year.
For more information, please visit www.ryerson.ca/theatreschool/conference.html.
-with files from Dana Yates