Author/Filmmaker Helps Students See PTSD's 'Invisible Wound'

Published 10.30.2015

School of Sciences, Humanities & Visual Communications News

Local author and documentary filmmaker Alivia Tagliaferri visited Joe Miller’s General Psychology class Thursday night to discuss post-traumatic stress disorder.

Tagliaferri's book, “Beyond the Wall:  The Journey Home,” chronicles the many discussions she had with military veterans at Walter Reed Medical Center.  A sizable portion of those individuals had experienced or were continuing to experience PTSD.

“While many of the patients there had visible wounds – missing limbs, broken bones – PTSD is an invisible wound," she said. "It isn’t always obvious to an outside observer.”

Alivia TagliaferriThe National Center for PTSD states that 7 to 8 percent of the population will experience symptoms at some point in their lives.  Women are affected at rates that are about 2½ times that of men.  In any given year, it is estimated that more than 5 million adults in the U.S. will have PTSD.  Trauma, Tagliaferri noted, affects far more people than are reflected in those numbers.

While sharing stories from PTSD sufferers, she also shared – on a personal level – the kinds of stress she experienced while in college.

“Support from peers who have shared the experience that you have is particularly important.”  Too often, she said, people don’t want to admit that they are suffering.  Or tragically, she said, people turn to self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, become overly indulged in their daily activities, or simply isolate themselves from others.  Generally those things only add to their stress, not reduce it.

Tagliaferri's "Beyond the Wall: The Journey Home" shares veterans' stories.Tagliaferri emphasized that a lot of help is available for those who have experienced a trauma of some kind, and she encouraged everyone to seek that help should they ever find it necessary.  There are skills one can practice, therapies one can explore and medications available for those who could benefit from them.

Her current project is a full-length documentary film, “The Power of One:  Preventing Suicide in America," which focuses on ways that each of us can have a positive influence on the lives of others.  It is scheduled for nationwide release in 2016.

Tagliaferri is on the board of the local chapter of the National Alliance for Mental Illness and is active in a variety of suicide awareness and prevention efforts.