December 4, 1917 – British Psychiatrist W.H. R…

December 4, 1917 – British Psychiatrist W.H. Rivers Addresses the Royal Medical School on Shell Shock

Pictured – Rivers was a compassionate and intelligent man immortalized in Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy.

Britain’s Craiglockhart War Hospital, near Edinburgh, treated the psychological victims of the First World War. Among its notable patients was Siegfried Sassoon, sent there after penning an anti-war diatribe to be delivered in Parliament, and Wilfred Owen, a poet who befriended Sassoon. They comprised one part of more than 80,000 British soldiers diagnosed with “shell shock” from the front.

The most important member of staff at Craiglockhart was Dr. W.H. Rivers, a psychiatrist and anthropologist who believed that patients could be helped to overcome their trauma through therapy and hypnosis aiming at discovering what caused physical and mental sypmtoms. In this he differed notably from many other psychiatrists, both in Britain and Germany, who believed that electric shocks were more effective at rehabilitation. In the end, though, the goal was the same no matter the methods – to send men back to the front.