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Discussion Guides
and potential questions

This Page contains three sections: 

The first section contains some basic suggestions for running discussions after showing the film to groups or in a pubic setting.  Please feel free to offer your own ideas on the Comments page.  What has worked or not worked for you in discussions after a public or small group screening?  We would love your input!

The second section is a simple list of questions designed to open communication between Veterans and Civilians after seeing the movie.

The third section offers some tips on living with a family member who is dealing with PTSD (for more information on PTSD please see that page under "Get Involved")

(These guides were prepared by Mike Maxwell, a therapist who has worked with Veterans for over 30 years, and colleagues.)

Thoughts on showing the film to a group:

Before showing the movie to a general audience we think it is important that you let the audience know a bit about the film and offer a few words of caution.  Due to the nature of the material discussed in the film it is not recommended for children under the age of 16 without parental supervision and approval.  The film contains strong language and some graphic descriptions of combat and the viewers should be advised.  Also, due to the language and discussion about the military and the impact of combat, some veterans and family members may react strongly to the viewing of this video.  You may want to offer information about local support and counseling services for veterans and family members viewing this film.
If you are considering having a discussion group following the viewing of the film we would like to suggest you consider the following options.
Utilize at least one experienced group leader or facilitator.  The sessions tend to flow better if you have two skilled leaders who can work with each other and the group.  Many mental health professionals have group skills and are often willing to assist in leading this type of activity, so that might be the best place to begin your search for a facilitator.  Other professions have experienced group leaders and facilitators, such as attorneys, and they may be willing and able to lead a group discussion.
You might want to consider taking a break in between the program and the discussion group allowing family members or children who might not be interested in the dialogue or discussion a chance to leave.  Because of the nature of the program content and the strong responses that it elicits in those who have viewed the film, it is suggested that parents consider not allowing adolescents children to participate in a discussion group.
In previous viewings of the film with the community we have seen that audiences have had a strong emotional response to the poems and veterans stories.  Expect that those participating in the discussion of the film will exhibit a wide range of responses to the film that can be very emotional and possibly overwhelming for them.  Expect and plan for the participants to have and voice their opinions and feelings about the stories and poems.
Establish group rules or guidelines for the discussion group.  It is import that you establish guidelines or rules for the group to follow prior to the meeting.  Consider using some of the following:
1.  Be respectful of others at all times.
2.  Listen to others, and respect their opinions and beliefs.
3.  Political and religious issues are always a part of any discussion about war.  However, they should only be mentioned in the context of how they relate to the topic and program.  Political and/or religious views should never be imposed on members of a group.
4.  Please let the person talking finish what they are saying and only one person at a time should be talking.
5. Threats to others will not be tolerated and you will be asked to leave.
As a way to begin and lead the discussion suggest a question or two such as; 1) Do you feel the veterans found a sense of healing from the retreat? 2) Do you think reading the poems made a difference for the veterans? 3) Is there something your community could do to help veterans heal?
Be clear and specific about you goals and purpose for the discussion.  This will allow you to maintain a focus for the discussion and keep the program and participants on track.
Consider setting a time limit for questions or comments so that all participants have an opportunity to talk.
Prepare, think about what could go wrong and plan what you do if that happens.  Be prepared so as not to be caught off guard.  Most of these programs do just fine and turn out to be civil and productive discussions that most people find enjoyable, but they can quickly dissolve into emotional outbursts or shouting matches if they are not monitored and facilitated properly. 


Potential Questions for Discussion

Questions to consider to focus discussion after seeing the movie with Veterans and Civilians

1. To Civilians:  What thoughts or feelings come to you about the veterans or veteran's families in your life?  Or about Veterans in general?

2.  To Veterans:  How was it for you seeing that large audience in the movie?  What do you think that would be like for you?

3.  Civilians:  What would you want Vets to know about you after seeing this movie?

4.  Veterans:  What would you want civilians to know about you after seeing this movie?

5.  Civilians:  How do you think vets perceive you before/after seeing this movie?

6.  Veterans:  What do you think civilians think about you generally, and now after seeing this movie?

7.  Civilians:  What does the movie leave you wanting to know, about veterans, war, return?

8.  To both Veterans and Civilians:  What action, if any, are you drawn to do now, after seeing this movie?



Helping a Family Member with PTSD:

--Veterans with PTSD can put a real strain on relationships with family members and loved ones, as is clearly seen in the movie.  When your family member or loved one returns from their service in a combat zone there are some things that you can do to help yourself and them.

--Offer them emotional support, understanding, and encouragement.
--Learn about PTSD, so you can understand what they are dealing with and what the experience of combat was about.
--Talk with them about how they are doing and be sure to listen carefully to what they are saying.
--Be patient and understanding.  Treatment for PTSD takes time and patience, so do not try to rush them or hurry along the process.  In dealing with their PTSD the veteran may need to talk about their trauma or time in combat over and over again.  Avoid the temptation of telling them to get over it or stop talking about it.
--Do not take their problems personally.  Vets with PTSD often experience problems with anger, isolation, avoidance of others and reminders of their service, emotional numbness, and withdrawal.  This will cause them to be distant, irritable, easy to anger, and closed off due to their PTSD.
--Invite them out for positive social interaction like going for coffee, a walk on a nice day, outings or other activities to get them to break up their routines.
--Remind them that with time and treatment he or she will get better.
--Do not pressure them into talking.  It is very difficult for people with PTSD to talk about their experiences and feelings, and for some talking about it can make things worse.  Never try to force them to talk about it, be supportive and let them know you are ready to listen when they are ready to talk.  Be prepared to say that many times before they take you up on your offer.  Do not judge what they say or do, try to be understanding and a good listener.
--Anticipate that they will have problems and reactions.  Vets with PTSD often have what are called triggers, things that remind them of the trauma or being back in combat.  Some of the more common triggers are certain sounds or smells, maybe a particular song, driving, and certain times of the day such as sundown or the middle of the night.  If you become aware of the vets triggers or responses you will be able to offer support and help in dealing with them.
--Never ignore the veteran’s comments about harming themselves.  Report such comments to the veteran’s therapist and let the vet know about your concern for them and their well being.
--Take care of yourself and do not let the veterans problems become yours.  Take time to get the sleep and food you need for good self care.  Talk with others about how you’re doing and get help and support for yourself if you begin to feel overwhelmed or hopeless.
--The VA Medical Center and Vet Centers have information, handouts, and staff who can talk with you about how to manage the stress and difficulty a loved one faces when dealing with a returning veteran.  Become aware of the impact that the veterans have on families and loved ones and how to deal with them before they become serious problems.
--Many Vet Centers and some VA Medical Centers have support groups to help educate family members on how to deal with veterans with PTSD.  These groups can be a good source of information and support and are most often free to family members.  Also, Military One Source will have a listing of local support services and programs for family members of combat veterans.
--Do not wait for the problems become serious, seek help and support when you begin to notice the trouble beginning.
--Remember to stay balanced.  If you feel that most of your energy and time is being spent trying to deal with the veteran and managing the problems that he or she is creating then it is time to stop and get help and support for yourself.
--Additional local information and support can be found at the web site developed by Ray Scurfield and the following web sites contain additional information on dealing with veterans and resources: