Treating Psychological Trauma at Bushnell

Though Bushnell was best known as an amputee center, it also specialized in the care of men suffering from “battle fatigue,” or what we today would call post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In earlier wars, men with “shell shock” were sometimes seen as weak and expected to “get over it” without being “coddled.” By World War II, progress had been made in understanding PTSD, though some people, even military leaders, didn’t believe it was a real condition. To those treating it, it was seen as an injury of sorts, not just a personality failing or weakness, and men treated their symptoms using several therapies, including hypnosis, shock therapy, medication, and talk therapy.

Let There Be Light 1946

Let There Be Light documented some of the psychological traumas experienced by veterans and the treatments used to help them at a time when post-traumatic stress disorder was only beginning to be understood. This video was deemed too negative or controversial by the US Army and was suppressed for several decades. Though filmed at Mason General Hospital in New York, the same methods and approaches would have been used at Bushnell.

 Though patients in most other areas of the hospital could come and go freely, those in the psychotherapy unit were often confined, sometimes kept in locked rooms, so they wouldn’t harm themselves or others.

Sources for this Page

“Better mental therapy aids vets,” Salt Lake Telegram, September 1, 1945, available at https://digitalnewspapers.org/.
Patricia Rushton, Lynn Clark Callister, Maile K. Wilson, comps., “World War II,” Latter-day Saint Nurses at War: A Story of Caring and Sacrifice (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2005), 13–113, https://rsc.byu.edu/archived/latter-day-saint-nurses-war-story-caring-and-sacrifice/world-war-ii.
Henry W. Brosin, “General Hospitals,” Neuropsychiatry in World War II, US Army Medical Department Office of Medical History, http://history.amedd.army.mil/booksdocs/wwii/NeuropsychiatryinWWIIVolI/chapter11.htm.