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Thursday, April 03, 2014

 
Don't blame PTSD

by digby

Here's a nice piece by Richard Allen Smith about the myths surrounding PTSD. It's not a clear cut as people seem to think:

When mass shootings occur, much too commonly lately, my veteran friends and I always have the same initial reactions. First, a sincere hope that everyone is okay. But immediately after that we think, “Please don’t let it be a veteran.” When Kate Hoit, a 29 year-old Iraq war veteran and graduate student living in Washington, D.C., first heard of the shooting, she thought, “Here we go again with another round of onslaughts on veterans and those with PTSD.” But a strong link between violent crime and PTSD has not been firmly established.

A 2012 study found that 9% of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans surveyed reported arrests since returning from service. But even with this incidence of arrest, most offenses were associated with nonviolent behavior. It’s also notable that the veterans studied, as well as post-9/11 veterans in general, come from demographics associated with higher rates of criminal behavior (young, male, history of family violence, etc.) that are not related to service. That study concluded that veterans suffering from PTSD are at increased risk for criminal arrests, but those arrests are more strongly linked to substance abuse than a predilection towards violence.

The rush to erroneously blame PTSD for violent veterans has been noted. But available research and increased awareness hasn’t stopped the speculation.
As I wrote earlier in another context, this idea that soldiers in our society don't expect violence outside the battlefield is clearly absurd since there is plenty of violence here in the "homeland" every single day. And this article indicates that the rush to assume any violence perpetrated by a combat veteran must be associated with PTSD is also fallacious. There are lots of reasons people start shooting in this country. It happens all the time to all kinds of people.

For all of our lugubrious "thank you for your service" rhetoric and symbolic support for the troops as we wave the flag at sporting events, it seems we haven't really gained any greater understanding of their sacrifices. Indeed, much of our post Iraq reverence for the military seems more oriented to patting ourselves on the back for our patriotism and benevolence than any real understanding of the price veterans always pay for the wars our politicians send them to.


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