Retired Green Beret uses theater to help veterans cope with the trauma of war

Veteran uses play to cope with trauma of war

In an effort to help break down stigmas surrounding mental health, "CBS This Morning" will broadcast a special live audience event, "Stop the Stigma: A Conversation About Mental Health," on Wednesday, Oct. 23. We will feature a live studio audience of people affected by mental illness in various ways and hear from medical professionals. As part of our commitment to tackling issues surrounding mental health, we're looking at post-traumatic stress.


For nearly a year, a powerful play written and performed by military veterans has been traveling around the country. The play, "Last Out," is inspired by the 23 years Scott Mann spent in the Army. When he retired from service he struggled with his mental health and decided to write it as a form of therapy.

"For a lot of years, I pushed down a lot of the aspects of combat that I didn't understand," Mann told CBS News' David Begnaud. "Whether it was survivor's guilt or mood swings or a lot of the indicators of post-traumatic stress."
 
Mann was a U.S. Army Green Beret who got deployed 12 times in 11 years. He retired as a lieutenant colonel. The play he wrote and stars in is all about the trauma of war.
 
"It's been an opportunity to just deal with and process and face a lot of the things that I was struggling to either talk about or to express," Mann said.

"I'm not used to seeing people like you be so vulnerable," Begnaud said.
 
"That makes two of us," Mann replied. "Our director, Ame, she said because it's three combat veterans and then Ame is a military family member, so one of the things that she said to us right out of the gate was in war, if you're vulnerable you get killed. But on stage, if you're not vulnerable it will kill you." 

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Scott Mann CBS News

There are several scenes which can trigger flashbacks. We saw it happen on stage to Mann during rehearsal. A therapist travels with the show to help the cast, crew and even members of the audience.

While we were there, Dan Miller's heart rate increased rapidly as he was watching the play. His smartwatch alerted paramedics. Miller is a 50-year-old former Marine whose post-traumatic stress was triggered.

Once cleared by paramedics, the show's traveling therapist, Diego Hernandez, treated him. When talking about post-traumatic stress, Diego and Scott Mann intentionally leave off the "d" for disorder.
 
"We need to take the 'd' off, we need to start treating this thing like an injury, not an illness, so that these very, very high performing people can get back in the game and lead us because we need them," Mann said.
 
"The more committed we are to the story the more the veterans just settle in and you can just feel them going for the ride and when it's over … just see the look in their eyes, you know that it was just, 'Hey, thanks for telling my story, man,'" Mann said.

Hernandez averages five PTS outreaches per city, more than 160 people since the show began.

Friday night, the outreach continues as the show begins a run of three performances of "Last Out" in Cincinnati.