At the beginning of the First World War, mental illnesses and nervous conditions were believed to result from an individual’s “weak” mind or character, rather than a legitimate reaction to an overwhelming event.
However, the evolution of the war with its mechanization and brutalization added a different dimension to the understanding and treatment of trauma-related illnesses, particularly “shell shock,” a mental health condition resulting from exposure to conflict and terror.
Shell Shocked: The Long Road to Recovery provides insight to the harsh realities faced by front-line military personnel, and the ways in which people with shell shock were treated. Infographics, photo-reproductions, and selected artefacts impart the evolution of clinical treatment on the one hand, and executions for cowardice or desertion, on the other.
By the end of the war, over 10,000 Canadian soldiers would be diagnosed with a “war neurosis,” what we know today as post-traumatic stress disorder. Many more people suffered without ever receiving an official diagnosis.
Curated and toured by the Canadian Centre for the Great War, this compact exhibition affords valuable opportunities for understanding some of the hidden tolls of warfare.
Shell Shocked is programmed to appear alongside a major exhibition of contemporary art probing Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Taras Polataiko: DEFIANCE includes a compelling series of large-scale portraits featuring hospitalized soldiers, providing a poignant counterpoint to… The Long Road to Recovery.