I remember the first time I saw this picture. I couldn’t stop staring at the eyes of the soldier in one of those awful WW1 trenches. I had been looking for a picture to describe without words what it feels like to live your life with an anxiety disorder, (like me) or the feeling of a really good panic attack. Then I started thinking of the stigma that still accompanies mental illness today, and how much worse it was back when this picture was taken. Those of you that watch “Downton Abbey” might remember when Mrs. Patmore, (the head cook) finds out that her nephew was executed for cowardice at the Front line. Like this gentleman he was probably suffering from PTSD and combat fatigue, so he was executed for not having the ability to go back up to the Front and ‘fight like a man.’ Thank God we no longer execute our soldiers, but it’s only recently that we’ve started to respect that not all wounds are external. But has the stigma gone away? I think not. If you looked in to the eyes of a man or woman on the street and saw that expression how would you react? With sympathy and empathy? Derision and ridicule? Would you offer a kind word and ask if you could help in some way? I’ll bet you would walk away as quickly as you could muttering about Pasadena letting all these crazy people live on the street. Or jump in your car and lock all the doors and tear out of the parking lot.
Perhaps if you could just remember this soldier’s eyes and what they had seen and that his “mental illness” wasn’t by any means a personal choice. It takes one person at a time to care enough to understand and help end the STIGMA — PLEASE!