Writing as Healing

I found this interesting article in the Daily Telegraph today. Matt Johnson is an ex-policeman, who suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and turned to writing violent crime thrillers as therapy to aid his recovery.


I’ve met several ex-soldiers with PTSD over the years, including a couple of Vietnam veterans who were still trying to cope with trauma forty years later. Knowing them, prompted me to write of a serial killer with PTSD in my first novel The Perfect Murderer.

Writing is undeniably therapeutic, and organisations such as Lapidus, the Writing for Wellbeing organisation do great work.

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My fictional serial killer has PTSD, and knows that he does, using it as an edge to stay on the fringe of society. I link his shadowy world to the online homicidal activities of players of violent video games, young men who are often alienated from society. There have been several real-life examples of mass murderers using video games as training for their intended attack, including Anders Breivik in Norway.

I’m not suggesting for one moment that all PTSD sufferers are potential homicidal maniacs. Nonetheless, there’s always a huge increase in violent crime when conflicts end, as there’s inadequate therapy for traumatised veterans. It’s a sad fact that more Vietnam veterans died from violent acts after the war than were killed during the conflict—including by suicide.

Boy soldiers are commonly used in revolutionary warfare. The atrocities in Africa, the Middle East and Slovenia featured children as warriors—often kidnapped and brainwashed youngsters; it’s still going on. I once worked with a man who’d been snatched from his classroom by the army of the Ayatollah in Iran. He was 14 years old, and with minimum weapons training, he found himself in a firefight using a machine gun forty-eight hours later. He killed people and became the victim of chemical warfare. Twenty-five years later he was struggling to cope with the guilt of what he did. He tried to make amends by working with refugees in London.

He was one of the kindest men I’ve ever met. He had the wisdom to seek counselling, but hearing of his experiences made me wonder what would happen to a disaffected and traumatised warrior with no family or friends, someone who’d been turned into a killing machine—hence my novel, with a serial killer who’s been fighting since childhood.

One of the things that I’m most grateful of, is that I never had to fight in a war, and now I’m too old! It troubles me greatly that not enough is done to deprogramme veterans from violent ways, and to help those who are tormented by trauma. Any outreach project offering support is welcome.


Veterans With PTSD Heal Through Wolf Therapy


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