And the Perils of Being a Drugged-up Insomniac Celebrity
By Gary G. Kohls, MD
55 years ago (July 2, 1961) an American literary icon, Ernest Hemingway, committed suicide at his beloved vacation retreat in Ketchum, Idaho. He had just flown to Ketchum after being discharged from a psychiatric ward at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN where he had received a series of electroconvulsive “treatments” (ECT) for a life-long depression that had started after he had experienced the horrors of World War I. In the “War To End All Wars: he had been a non-combatant ambulance driver and stretcher-bearer.
One of Hemingway’s wartime duties was to retrieve the mutilated bodies of living and dead humans and the body parts of the dead ones from the Italian sector of the WWI battle zone. In more modern times his MOS (military occupational specialty) might have been called Grave’s Registration, a job that – in the Vietnam War – had one of the highest incidences of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that arose in that war’s aftermath.
Hemingway, just like many of the combat-induced PTSD victims of every war, was likely haunted for the rest of his life by the horrific images of the wounded and dead, so there was no question that he had what was later to be understood as combat-induced PTSD with depression, panic attacks, nightmares, auditory and/or visual hallucinations and insomnia.