The war at home : a veteran's use of critical design methods for post-deployment reintegration



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Many combat veterans underestimate the on-going traumatic effects of war, effects that eventually surface in civilian life, causing health, relationship and career problems. During a deployment, emotions such as vigilance, anger, and fear are beneficial for the soldier and aide in coping with multiple combat-related adversities. Suppression of emotions that do not assist the soldier or mission during deployment is necessary and becomes habitual as it helps the soldier stay motivated and focused for the duration of the deployment. Post-deployment, the coping mechanisms previously necessary for survival, contribute to the difficulties of reintegration. The problems encountered by veterans can include, but are not limited to: social withdrawal, economic decline, self-medication, and most problematic, suicidal tendencies. As a veteran myself, I began to ask, is there another way to prepare veterans for re-entry to civilian life, to prevent unnecessary hardships and tragedies, educate them in unfamiliar ways, and perhaps contribute to an effective healing process? As a designer I approached these questions, searching for a way to communicate the adversities veterans face from an unexpected angle. Presented here are prototypes, diagrams, and warning systems designed to help veterans 1) be more self-aware and alert to the symptoms of posttraumatic stress and depression, 2) engage the armed forces and the VA in a discussion about innovative and more effective ways to talk about and treat the psychologically damaged soldier, and 3) foster communities to support veterans in their re-entry to civilian life. The objects I designed for my thesis exhibition are not intended to correct a complex problem such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or moral injury. Instead, they are created as a collection of tools to facilitate difficult conversations, provoke thought, and as an alternative approach to reach combat veterans who are in their own process of reintegration. My work is one method to process the effects of war through a non-destructive practice for those veterans who may not pay attention to the wall of pamphlets or other forms of disseminating information.