Military Wives Go Topless to Raise PTSD Awareness

Tragic reports on the devastating effects of post-traumatic stress disorder among military veterans have shocked the nation for several years now as suicide rates climb ever higher for soldiers returning from our nation’s ongoing overseas engagements (a polite way to describe long, unpopular wars).

It’s a big problem in need of a solution–affected vets have turned to everything from pets to pot for relief.

The United States military has, to its credit, begun taking steps to minimize the long-standing stigma against seeking treatment for PTSD—and now an inspired group of military wives led by Ashley Wise has created a striking PR campaign designed to bring more attention to the challenges faced by the families of affected soldiers.

The campaign is called “Battling Bare”, and participants use a striking PR move to bring attention to their noble effort: Wives are encouraged to submit photos of themselves posing topless with their backs to the camera and messages of support either written or Photoshopped onto their backs. It’s all very tasteful photography, and some children have participated as well by submitted snapshots with messages written on their feet or arms.

It started like this: Ashley Wise’s Marine husband dealt with his PTSD by receding into isolation and heavy drinking—and when it became too much to bear, she had the idea to write a message on her back and post a photo to Facebook . The pic attracted the attention of international PTSD advocacy group Military Minds, which encouraged Wise to start her own organization.

The true target of the subsequent DIY PR campaign is not the soldiers themselves but the people who surround, support and depend on them every day. Battling Bare’s mission, according to its website, is to “provide a network of support for the spouses, children and family members who silently struggle to carry the burden of PTSD with their beloved service members.”

While Battling Bare is not a profit-making venture, Wise says she has been amazed by the public response and plans to conduct fundraising efforts and organize related events on both a local and international level. She also plans to create a similar project to support female officers who have been raped in the line of duty.

We feel like a campaign as noble as this one deserves an agency. Any volunteers?

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.