Realism in Steven Spielberg’s War Sequence Leads to Hotline Opening for War Veterans

Veterans Fear Mental Health Risks From Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan

In 1998, director Steven Spielberg premiered “Saving Private Ryan,” a World War II-set war film starring Tom Hanks. While excitement was high at the movie’s release and it eventually grossed more than $482 million worldwide, veterans especially feared for their mental health upon viewing the film.

John Raaen, a war veteran and D-Day survivor, said of viewing the film, “Everyone was stunned. Me too. I wasn’t going to talk to anyone. It brought back so many memories that my mind was replaying all the things that happened.”

Recognizing the potential post-traumatic stress the film may have caused, the Department of Veterans Affairs of the United States government created a helpline. Therapist Deborah Richter of the Portland Veterans Center noted the power the movie had, saying “It’s the ultimate trigger for post-traumatic experiences.”

Two weeks after the movie’s release, the helpline had received over 170 calls.

Saving Private Ryan garnered 11 Oscar nominations and won 5 awards for Best Cinematography, Best Sound, Best Sound Editing, Best Editing and Best Director.

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