Jason Kander was Missouri's attorney general and almost defeated incumbent Roy Blunt for a U.S. Senate seat in 2016. Just two years later, Kander dropped out of public life after he announced that he had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and depression.
Kander talks openly about his condition for the first time in the new documentary "Here. Is. Better." from Emmy-winning director Jack Youngelson. The film also profiles Dr. Kathleen Chard and her women veterans' treatment group at the PTSD and Anxiety Disorders Division at the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Producers are selling rights to the film at the Cannes Film Festival and have posted a compelling trailer for it.
The trailer is age-restricted so you may have to sign in and watch on YouTube, but there's nothing in the video that will shock anyone who's informed about trauma.
The filmmakers note that, while PTSD is commonly associated with combat-related trauma, survivors of assault and sexual abuse are also often afflicted with the condition. Most recently, there's been a high occurrence of post-traumatic stress in survivors of COVID-19 and among the medical professionals who've been tasked with treating the disease.
Youngelson won an Emmy for writing and producing the harrowing HBO documentary "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib." He also directed episodes of the Ken Burns-produced documentary series "The Gene" and "Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies" and wrote the acclaimed 2020 voter-suppression documentary "All In: The Fight for Democracy."
While Kander is the boldface name who's going to hook most viewers, the stories of the other three veterans profiled in the film look to be equally compelling. The film's website doesn't reveal anyone's last name. Kander is identified only as "Jason."
Teresa is an Iraq War veteran who witnessed an improvised explosive device blow up her husband's Humvee. He survived, but she's never really processed the trauma and guilt from that day.
John was drafted and served in Vietnam as a door gunner with the 195th Helicopter Assault Company. He earned a Silver Star for defending an attack on the Quan Loi Army base but hid the medal in a drawer because it reminded him of the trauma he experienced in battle.
Tabitha enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 18 and served at entry control points in Fallujah, Iraq, performing searches on women because men were not permitted to do so. She was sexually assaulted during her service, which included tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since stepping back from politics, Kander has hosted the podcast "Majority 54" while undergoing treatment. He's hopeful that "Here. Is. Better." will inspire others to seek help.
He said in a statement, "Film is an incredibly powerful medium, one that I'm counting on to convey a message that's very personal to me. I hope that this film can be a catalyst for change -- opening people up to the power of treatment; showing them that mental health issues are surmountable; and that life is worth living."
The producers hope to release "Here. Is. Better." in the United States this fall as part of a larger initiative to inspire those dealing with post-traumatic stress to seek help. We'll have details when they're available.
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