Film features soldier’s recovery from PTSD

By Costa Maragos Posted: June 18, 2015 6:00 a.m.

Dr. Nicholas Carleton as shown in the docudrama ‘I Came Back.’
Dr. Nicholas Carleton as shown in the docudrama ‘I Came Back.’ (Photo - U of R Photography).

Dr. Nicholas Carleton, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Regina, is prominently featured in an inspirational docudrama that chronicles the painful journey of a former Canadian soldier, Glen Kirkland.

Corporal Kirkland was just two days away from completing his last tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2008, when a Taliban-fired rocket blew up his vehicle.

Three of Kirkland’s comrades were killed. Kirkland survived and suffered severe injuries, including hearing loss and post-traumatic stress disorder.

He returned home to face another battle - but this time it was about overcoming a traumatic brain injury, short-term memory loss and other impairments that included flashbacks to that horrible day in battle.

Corporal Kirkland

Glen Kirkland served in Afghanistan with the Canadian military (Photo courtesy of Collective Mind Entertainment).

The docudrama is called “I Came Back” and is now showing on SaskTel for maxTV subscribers. It follows Kirkland’s journey from the depths of post-traumatic stress disorder to recovery.

“By showcasing Glen and others who overcame a major trauma and mental illnesses and ‘came back’ a different person, the show focusses on the positive stories, rather than the negative and exploitive,” says Dr. Carleton, an internationally-renowned psychologist who runs a private practice for military personnel and first responders with anxiety disorders, particularly PTSD. Dr. Carleton has been published in more than 90 journal articles and is regularly asked to speak to groups about treating mental illness.

In the film, Dr. Carleton points to a growing area of research known as Post Traumatic Growth. He says, “that is what happens when somebody experiences a significant trauma and instead of being permanently debilitated by it they actually find new meaning in that trauma. They dedicate themselves to a new cause. Or they find a renewed lease on life.”

The docudrama was filmed in seven cities including Los Angeles, Vancouver (Kirkland’s hometown), Brandon (current home), and Regina.

Annmarie Lesiuk Aronoff produced the film with Nate Bower (BFA’03), and Executive Producer, Jane Lesiuk (CertEd’68). Aronoff is a U of R alumna, having graduated in 1999 (BFA) with a major in film and video production. She also designed curriculum for and taught a 400-level film business course at the U of R on International Media Distribution.

“It takes a great deal of courage, discipline and love to overcome and finally be able to say three very empowering words: “I Came Back,” says Aronoff. “That’s why we’re sharing the stories of those who came back and are living life to the fullest, to encourage and help others to do the same.” 

Aronoff plans to expand this show into a series where people who have overcome mental health challenges can share their stories and serve as an inspiration to others.

“I Came Back” is available on demand on SaskTel’s maxTV (channel 348) until the end of July.