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Vets in Prison-PTSD

August 14, 2013

One of the side issues related to PTSD is the number of sufferers who eventually wind up in prison.  I recently read this…

“When soldiers come back from war, part of the war comes back with them. For many veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, the return home is not a postscript to the war so much as another chapter. In these conflicts, mental wounds/ have outnumbered physical ones. Posttraumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury have been called the wars’ signature injuries. In 2008 the RAND Corporation surveyed a group of veterans six months after their return. It found that almost one in five had either PTSD or major depression. In recent years, rates of substance abuse and suicide among veterans have also ticked steadily upward.

A certain number of veterans suffering from mental health issues, will invariably end up in jail or prison. After Vietnam, the number of inmates with prior military service rose steadily until reaching a peak in 1985, when more than one in five was a veteran. By 1988, more than half of all Vietnam veterans diagnosed with PTSD reported that they had been arrested; more than one third reported they had been arrested multiple times. Today veterans advocates fear that, unless they receive proper support, a similar epidemic may befall soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

No one knows how many veterans are incarcerated, but the most recent survey, compiled by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2004, found that nearly one in 10 inmates in U.S. jails had prior military service. Extrapolated to the total prison population, this means that approximately 200,000 veterans were behind bars. Margaret Noonan, a statistician who co-authored the study, told me that it would likely take years for these numbers to reflect the toll on veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.”

It is hard for people to understand the issue if they have no experience.  I had a discussion with a friend recently who asked. “Well if War is so bad how come these soldiers re-up to go back and serve additional terms?”  I tell them to think about it.  In Afghanistan and Iraq when a soldier walks the streets with his weapon at his side he is like a God.  He can, in an instant, determine who will live and who will die.  It is a pretty heady feeling for anyone let alone an 18 or 19 year old.  When the average GI returns to the United States with the job market as it is, this same 18 or 19 year old asks only “Do you want to Supersize that?” Which would you choose being a God or a fry cook?

I continue to volunteer at the OC4Vets and we see mostly Vietnam veterans who have taken years to finally get the help that they have earned.  When I asked where the Afghanistan and Iraq veterans were I was told that these military veterans weren’t expected for another 20 years.  That is a long time to suffer in silence.  My suggestion always is the same, seek professional mental health professionals as quickly as possible and in the meantime feel free to come to this site and write whatever you feel.  There is no censorship here and you can come as often as you wish and write whatever you feel. It is still a free service for you.