We modelers often forget about the real world impact of our subject matter. We moan about the incorrect size or shape of a part on a kit, or the unrealistic paint scheme on a finished model or debate we might about rusty tracks. But a lot of our kits and dioramas depict machines of war that could or have caused suffering. Not just by wounding or killing people and animals, but also on a psychological level. Wars are by definition not clean, no matter what.
War is, as you well know, a horrible affair which should be avoided at all costs. But it is unavoidable at times. Because of this nations maintain armed forces to protect their country, inhabitants and others from harm. Soldiers fighting in World War 1 and 2 have come down with what was known as ‘Shell shock‘, which is now more commonly referred to as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Because of their occupation, service members are far more likely to suffer from PTSD then the general public. But they entered the service knowing that they could be involved in (a series of) traumatic events, but decide to enlist anyway, for whatever reason. The same goes for every policeman, firemen or ambulance crew or any other emergency services member
But PTSD is not a occupational hazard alone; an accident or sexual assault or any other traumatic event can trigger PTSD in someone. The US Department of Veteran Affairs defines the symptoms of PTSD as follows:
- Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms). You may have bad memories or nightmares. You even may feel like you’re going through the event again. This is called a flashback.
- Avoiding situations that remind you of the event. You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.
- Having more negative beliefs and feelings. The way you think about yourself and others may change because of the trauma. You may feel guilt or shame. Or, you may not be interested in activities you used to enjoy. You may feel that the world is dangerous and you can’t trust anyone. You might be numb, or find it hard to feel happy.
- Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal). You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. Or, you may have trouble concentrating or sleeping. You might suddenly get angry or irritable, startle easily, or act in unhealthy ways (like smoking, using drugs and alcohol, or driving recklessly.
From personal experience I can tell you: PTSD is not some made-up condition. It is very real, and very difficult to handle it on your own. It can only be treated with help from loved ones and friends and/or with help from professionals. My experience is that building scale models also helps, and studies confirm this. Modelbuilding brings you in a trance-like state, where you are completely focused on the model with little space in your mind to think about other things. Add to that the great and welcoming communities, shows and clubs populated by like-minded people and you have a great hobby to help with your recovery.
This is why charities like Models for Heroes in the UK and Models for Troops in the USA exist. To promote the mental health benefits of model building and providing all the kits and tools required to mental health organisations and charities. And this is why I will support them any way I can. Building kits helped me overcome PTSD, along with my family, friend and professional help.
To donate money for Models for Troops, visit their GoFundMe-page