Ben Selkow’s acclaimed documentary “Buried Above Ground” will premiere Tuesday, June 28th at 8 p.m. to bring attention to the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It’s National PTSD Awareness Month, and the show will be airing on WORLD Channel (check local listings) as part of the fourth season of America Reframed.
Filmed over six years, “Buried Above Ground” follows three Americans fighting to overcome the paralyzing grip of PTSD: Luis Carlos Montalván, an Iraq War veteran who has emerged as a New York Times best-selling author and a leading advocate for PTSD awareness; Erundina López, a survivor of child abuse and domestic violence who has battled addiction for many years; and Ashley Boudreaux, a fifth-generation New Orleans native whose home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Their personal journeys shed light on an underreported mental health condition that is often misunderstood and left untreated.
The film builds on the growing awareness of PTSD as a phenomenon that negatively impacts large numbers of combat military veterans like Luis whose symptoms turn his daily life into a personal prison. A mental health condition triggered by a terrifying event, PTSD symptoms identified by the Mayo Clinic include acute anxiety, flashbacks, severe depression, hypervigilance, dissociation, suicidal thoughts, emotional numbness, and isolation, among others.
Far less visible are the stories of survivors like Erundina and Ashley, who represent a large population of people affected by PTSD. The National Center for PTSD estimates that about seven or eight out of every 100 people will have PTSD at some point in their lives. Survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, community violence, and natural disasters are not included as frequently in the public discourse. Intimate moments from their therapy sessions, home life and relationships illustrate how the road to recovery takes many shapes while being fraught with obstacles and setbacks.
Luis, who suffered multiple war atrocities, remembers and relives the ambush, hand-to-hand combat and blunt-force trauma that left him unconscious on December 21, 2003. The film follows his difficult transition to civilian life.
Erundina first experienced child abuse at the hands of her father. At age 14 she ran away. By the age of 17, she was a teen mother and married to an abuser. After a second abusive marriage, she sank into depression, embraced alcohol and began neglecting her son.
Meanwhile, one week after Ashley was married in Congo Square in the heart of New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina struck and seared into her mind images of widespread calamity and overwhelming loss of life. Among Ashley’s PTSD symptoms are recurring nightmares of Katrina’s aftermath.
Watch the trailer below:
Over time and with support, each finds hope and new pathways to living a meaningful and purposeful life. Luis finds strength by telling his truths in an acclaimed debut memoir entitled Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him. Aided through the bond he forms with his service dog, “Tuesday,” he becomes a national mental health advocate. Inspired by Luis and Tuesday, Senator Al Franken introduces a congressional bill to pair service dogs and veterans, which becomes law.
Armed with a desire to help other battered women, Erundina aspires to become a social worker and receives her master’s degree from Barry University.
In New Orleans, Ashley rebuilds her life by reconnecting with her community, confronting the legacy of Katrina, and celebrating her 10-year wedding anniversary in a new home she and her partner are lovingly restoring.
“Buried Above Ground” has been supported, in part, by The Carter Center and Mental Health America (MHA).