PTSD Is Not A Crime

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 4 2014 @ 11:46am

PTSD

Emily Badger, who passes along the above chart, uses the latest shooting at Fort Hood to discuss PTSD rates:

Combat in Iraq … is not entirely like combat in Afghanistan. And research consistently concludes that veterans are returning from Iraq, where the troubled shooter in Wednesday’s Fort Hood tragedy served, with what appears to be greater exposure to stressors and higher levels of PTSD. The Fort Hood shooter, an Army truck driver named Ivan Lopez, was reportedly undergoing evaluation for PTSD. Some numbers from the Department of Veterans Affairs estimate that PTSD affects about 11 percent of veterans of the war in Afghanistan, but 20 percent of veterans who served in Iraq.

But Richard Allen Smith doesn’t want PTSD blamed for the tragedy:

I am a veteran, having served in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne from February 2007 to April 2008. I’ve also been diagnosed with PTSD related to my time in service. (Many vets, myself included, favor the removal of “disorder” from PTSD, our symptoms being a natural human response to what we have experienced.) 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.

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.

Phillip Carter covers the stigma surrounding PTSD:

It would be enough for these stories to leap to conclusions about one particular shooting. Unfortunately, such reporting (in this case and that of the Navy Yard shooting last September) contributes to a deeply ingrained (and factually false) narrative about veterans that has become a part of the American psyche. This “Rambo narrative” — the idea that veterans are deranged killers suffering from post-traumatic stress, ready to explode in the workplace or at home – did lasting harm to the Vietnam generation of veterans. It persists today, and is only inflamed by reporting like that on the Fort Hood shooting.

In a 2012 report on veterans employment, my colleagues surveyed nearly 70 companies from all sectors on questions of barriers to veterans in the workforce. A majority of companies surveyed said that “negative stereotypes,” including but not limited to perceptions of pervasive post-traumatic stress, were a major factor in decisions not to hire veterans. One respondent said that “I’ve heard about some veterans coming back and going on rampages. I’ve never had this happen to me personally, but I always wonder if it is a possibility.” Others spoke about how media reporting suggested that “all vets have PTSD,” even though the data suggest that only a small minority do, and that these concerns may be unfounded or overblown.