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Just got confirmation that I will be giving the following paper at the American Anthropology Association conference in Denver, Colorado, in November 2015.

This paper is currently undergoing the peer-review process for publication, and I'm hopeful that I'll be able to share that with everyone before the conference.

Traumatic Memory: Child Soldiers, Childhood Trauma, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Abstract: In Rewriting the Soul (1995), Ian Hacking details the controversial causal linking of repressed memories of child abuse to what was then called Multiple Personality Disorder, while deftly arguing that the concept of “child abuse” — and even the idea of what constitutes a child — is historically and culturally specific, Hacking also notes the extent to which the notion of “childhood trauma” has become an essentialized and universalized category in popular and psychiatric discourses of psychological distress. In an effort to further problematize the current psychiatric nosology of traumatic memory linked to childhood trauma, this paper will explore the forms of psychological distress experienced by children exposed to war and violence, and particularly those forms of distress experienced by child soldiers who arguably have experienced not only different forms, but a different magnitude of trauma than seen in the North American context. Through examining the difference in observed and/or experienced psychological distress associated with these different scales and forms of trauma, this paper will problematize current research being conducted by the Canadian Department of National Defence that has attempted to identify childhood trauma, and repressed memory, as being risk factors for post-traumatic stress disorder amongst soldiers. It will be argued that this research focus, and its associated reliance on the concept of psychological resilience, is intended to limit government liability for claims to benefits by soldiers, and can be understood as an engagement in memoro-politics.

Walter Callaghan
PhD student, Medical Anthropology
Department of Anthropology
University of Toronto

I promised that I would post this:

The Canadian soldier: an exemplar of valour, duty, integrity, honour, and courage; a selfless and self-sacrificing protector of the values and ideals of Canadian society; the “hero”. These are all certainly aspects of the identity of the Canadian soldier, and more importantly, these are all also the epitome of maleness in modern Western society, a maleness that has become largely inseparable from the socially constructed identity of the soldier, or, in other words, a hypermasculine identity that transcends the biology of the individual, since this soldier identity is enacted by soldiers whether they be biologically male or female, and regardless of the sexual identity of the individual, whether it be heterosexual or any variant commonly referred to as LGBTQ. This hypermasculine identity of the soldier, perhaps best referred to as military masculinity, is socialized into the individual soldier long before they ever swear an oath or affirmation of service to Canada, and becomes a core, yet frequently unrecognized, pillar of their internal system of values, ethics, morals, and ethos. And this military masculinity, with its emphasis on the “hero” motif, also plays a role in how the individual soldier lives their daily life, imagines and perceives the world around them, and how they conceptualize injury or illness.
     It is this latter aspect that is the core focus of this paper: how the individual soldier understands, conceptualizes, perceives, and ultimately enacts the condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or any of the other forms of psychological distress that fall under the umbrella term of Operational Stress Injury (OSI), through the socialized lenses of their gendered identity as the “hero”, including the different forms and manners in which stigma towards PTSD or OSI occur, both from within the military culture, and through the broader Canadian society within which the military operates and functions. This paper will examine the ways in which the indoctrination and socialization of the Canadian soldier functions to create and/or reinforce the hypermasculine gendered identity, the military masculinity, that lies at the heart of the social imaginary of who the Canadian soldier is. The manner in which the pain and suffering of psychological distress interacts with this imagined but adopted functional non-biologic gendered identity will be examined, both from the lens of those not stricken by the symptoms of PTSD, as well as from the internalized lens of the wounded warrior.

Callaghan, W. (2014) “Standing on Guard – For Who?: The Betrayal and Retraumatization of the Canadian Veteran”, paper presented at CASCA 2014 (Canadian Anthropology Society), 30 April – 3 May 2014, York University, Toronto ON Canada.

Abstract: Ever since the First World War, a social covenant has been understood to exist between Canada and her soldiers: the latter being willing to lay down their lives with the understanding that they and/or their families would be taken care of by the nation should they be injured or killed, or in their old age.  Recent actions of the Harper Government have challenged the existence of this social covenant through the perceived disrespect demonstrated by Minister Fantino (Veterans Affairs), including his attempted bullying of an elderly veteran, and through direct comments made in preliminary hearings at a proposed Class-Action lawsuit by veterans against the government.  In the wake of these and other events, the veterans that I have worked with over the past few years began voicing a sense of betrayal and retraumatization, culminating with the question: what do the words “We Stand On Guard For Thee” really mean?

The full text of this presentation, with the associated slides, can be found at the following link:

In November 2013, I attended the annual conference of the American Anthropological Association, where I chaired a session on "Ethnographies of Mental Health and Mental Health Care", and gave a paper entitield "Let's Talk: Stigma and the Illness Paradigm in Mental Health".

During the conference I was approached and agreed to do an interview for "Anthropod", the podcast of the Society for Cultural Anthropology.  That interview has now been made available online, albeit in edited form (it was originally 30-minutes in length).

My interview, "Understanding PTSD through Anthropology", begins at the 22-minute mark.

Bill C-55 / SISIP, C-55, and discouraging Veterans from returning to work
« on: December 24, 2013, 02:28:46 PM »
A little while ago I posted that I'd finally received a response from SISIP regarding my complaints on how they were handling the part-time earnings offset to LTD. My CM agreed that it was a problem, and that an error had clearly occurred. We sent the issue up the ladder at SISIP for resolution. The following is the response that we got. This is not what C-55 was intended to do. Wondering how many others out there are finding themselves in the same boat? And yes, I am escalating it up to the next level at SISIP.


The situation you describe is not best classified as a problem, rather a natural part of claim progression. As your claim advances and the years pass, your 75% entitlement receives the applicable Cost of Living increase each year. As this occurs, the gap between your 75% gross benefit entitlement (prior to applicable offsets) and your deemed salary at release narrows. This means that with each passing year, the amount you can earn and be offset at 50% also gets smaller. This is a natural part of your claim progression.

The 50% offset provision is a somewhat unique provision in the SISIP policy and affords members in receipt of LTD, who also participated in the SISIP Vocational Rehabilitation program in some way, with some what of an "incentive" when they initially return to work. That incentive is that your employment earnings are not immediately offset at 100%. That being said, as your claim progresses, if you have a claim open long enough, and as annual Cost of Living adjustments are applied, that gap narrows until your 75% gross benefit entitlement (prior to applicable offsets) would eventually equal your deemed salary at release. Once you reach this point, you no longer have a 50% offset limit. All of your employment earnings becomes offset at 100%.

Effective Oct 3/11, an Enhancement was applied to all active LTD recipients. You are aware of this enhancement which effectively increased your 75% gross benefit entitlement (prior to offset) to 75% of $2,700, or $2,025. This enhancement was done across the board to all active SISIP LTD recipients to align your benefit entitlement with the new prescribed benefit level. For LTD recipients for whom their benefit was calculated based on the deemed salary, the process was as I just described.

This process effectively caused your benefit to "jump the queue" and receive a large inflation at a single point in time. Prior to the application of this Enhancement, your 75% gross benefit entitlement (prior to applicable offsets) was $1,511.86. As you were only released in 2010, you had only experienced one such annual increase prior to the application of the Enhancement on Oct 3/11. Had this Enhancement not happened, you naturally would have seen a progressive decrease in your 50% offset limit as annual Cost of Living amounts were applied to your benefit. As this was a large increase applied at one time, I can understand that the loss of the 50% offset limit must have seemed like a bit of a shock to the system; however, it was anticipated based on the nature of this one time monetary inflation of your 75% gross benefit entitlement (prior to applicable offsets).

I trust this additional information will put what has happened to your 50% limit in to a bit more context. At this stage, there will be no changes to the application of this Enhancement to your LTD benefit, Mr. Callaghan. It has been applied to your benefit following the prescribed criteria.

We, at Manulife, are unable to affect any changes to this provision as it has been applied across our line of business. It was developed to bring incomes under the LTD plan in line with a new prescribed minimum benefit and to align the SISIP benefit with other military benefit providers.

Kristopher Anderson
Supervisor - Disability/Life Claims, SISIP Services

Somehow this slipped by without being posted.

Canada’s military to test breakthrough procedure to identify and treat PTSD in soldiers

OTTAWA—The defence department is looking to cutting-edge medical technology in its battle to identify and track legions of Canadian soldiers who have developed or are being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Defence Research and Development Canada, the scientific agency that supports the military, will spend a quarter of a million dollars to test the finding that the psychological disorder that has appeared in up to 20 per cent of Canada’s front line war fighters can be detected through magnetic fields given off by the electrical impulses in the brain.

The study, to be completed by early next year, is based on research that was able to detect distinct patterns of brain activity in American veterans diagnosed with PTSD — patterns that did not appear in people without the condition.

That work has come as a relief to hundreds of U.S. soldiers who have taken the tests, said Dr. Brian Engdahl, a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota who has been treating patients with PTSD for decades.

“To put it simply in the words of one veteran, you now have physical evidence of my emotional injury,” he recounted. “I think that sums it up pretty well.”

The work started in 2007 when Dr. Apostolos Georgopoulos, a University of Minnesota neuroscientist, employed a magnetoencephalographic (MEG) device to map the distinct magnetic impulses of a constellation of brain disorders, including schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease.

His team applied those findings to post-traumatic stress disorder in 2010 and found that the re-enactment and memory of traumatic events was caused by electrical activity in the right temporal lobe of the brain.

“PTSD was a challenge because it is a disease that people suffer from, but there’s no known structural, neurotransmitter or other malady where you open the brain . . . and see something that really makes the difference,” Georgopoulos said.

Before this, diagnosing the psychological disorder had been complicated. The symptoms, including depression, anxiety and substance abuse, could be the problem themselves or could be symptoms of other diseases. Those symptoms can also be masked by veterans reluctant to admit they have a problem or to get help.

Another difficulty is tracking the success of the various treatments in those seeing a psychiatrist or taking medication for PTSD.

Engdahls says they have not been able to follow affected veterans through the course of their PTSD treatment, but there have been scans of veterans whose PTSD is in remission and the magnetic signature given off by their brains is distinctly different.

“With people who have recovered from PTSD the stamp is still there, but it is far less intense.”

The defence department plans to perform the MEG diagnostic scans on Canadian soldiers who have been diagnosed with PTSD, those with no mental illness as well as civilians with and without minor traumatic brain injuries (concussions).

Getting a handle on the new procedure and being able to see how well patients respond to treatment, the department says, “is critical to be able in helping them with their recovery, and determine when they could be safely redeployed.”

A final period of public comment has been opened for the draft version of the Diagnostic & Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5 or DSM-V).

Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders

Please find below a list of disorders that are currently proposed for the diagnostic category, Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders. This category contains diagnoses that were listed in DSM-IV under the chapter of Anxiety Disorders and the chapter of Adjustment Disorders. The Anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum, Posttraumatic, and Dissociative Disorders Work Group has been responsible for addressing these revisions. Many of the disorders that were previously listed in the Anxiety Disorders chapter in DSM-IV have been distributed throughout this chapter as well as separate chapters on Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders and Anxiety Disorders. For a comprehensive review of all anxiety and related disorders, please be sure to visit those chapters as well. For a recent review of evidence on classifying trauma and stress related disorders, please review a recent article published in Depression & Anxiety (2011; 28: 737-749) authored by Friedman et al.
Among the most recent revisions to this diagnostic category is revised criteria for the proposed disorder, Persistent Complex Bereavement Disorder. This is being proposed for Section III, a section of DSM-5 in which conditions that require further research will be included. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder now has a subtype for PTSD in preschool children rather than having this subtype exist as a separate diagnosis. A dissociative symptoms subtype has also been added to this disorder. In the Adjustment DIsorders, a 6 month requirement for children for the bereavement related subtype has been added, and the disorder includes minor wording changes, including changes to the bereavement related subtype. Finally, the work group has proposed criteria for Trauma- or Stressor- Related Disorder Not Elsewhere Classified. We appreciate your review and comment on these disorders.

Bill C-55 / C-55 and SISIP LTD Calculations - Reservists
« on: April 20, 2012, 04:32:55 PM »
Follow-up on the "enhancement" to SISIP LTD ... I finally got someone at SISIP who was able to explain exactly how the "enhancement" of $700/m resulted in a net gain of $50/m.

Under the previous calculations, ResF veterans had their LTD calculated as 75% of a "deemed" release-salary of $2000/m, meaning that our pre-deduction/clawback LTD was $1500/m.  The allowed extra-earnings offset amount was calculated by taking the difference between the deemed "gross" salary and the LTD amount and multiplying it by two.  This meant that the first $1000/m earned through employment was offset from the LTD at $0.50 on the dollar; anything over $1000/m is offset dollar-for-dollar.

However, with the C-55 enhancement that finally received Treasury Board approval last week and was retroactively applied to Oct-2011; certain things changed.  For starters, the new "deemed" release-salary for ResF pers is now calculated as 75% of $2700/m, or $2025/m LTD.  Under this calculation, the difference between the two amounts means that the first $1350/m of employment earnings is offset from the LTD at $0.50 on the dollar; and anything over $1350/m is offset dollar-for-dollar.  Or at least, that is how it works for ResF pers who were 3B released on or after 1-Apr-2012.

For those of us who were released prior to 1-Apr-2012, things get a little more complicated.  Our "deemed" salary is remaining at $2000/m, with a top-up to bring us in-line with ResF pers as described above.  However, for the purposes of calculating our potential employment offset, instead of double the difference between $2700 and $2025 being used as the basis, it is the double the difference between $2000 (the old amount of  "deemed" salary) and $2025 (the new 75% LTD), or negative $50/month.

In other words, because of the screwball method of calculating the possible employment offset, ResF pers on SISIP LTD who were released before 1-Apr-2012 now have EVERY SINGLE DOLLAR of employment income offset DOLLAR-FOR-DOLLAR from their LTD.  Thus explaining how/why my LTD went from $630/m to $680/m (I earn $1090/m as a graduate-student at the University of Toronto).

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