Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Like Vets, Civilians With PTSD Poorly Treated

"Every war has its after-war," David Finkel writes in his new book, Thank You for Your Service, and now we know that trauma experienced in your own neighborhood has an afterlife in the body.

ProPublica reports on the growing body of research showing that civilians in America with traumatic injuries develop Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome comparable to war vets. Victims of violence, natural disasters or accidents can experience the flashbacks, nightmares, paranoia and social withdrawal emblematic of the condition.

But slow as the VA has been to aid vets with PTSD (see Finkel's book, or his article in The New Yorker, "The Return"), help for civilian victims is almost nonexistent. Only one major trauma center out of 22 surveyed with the nation's highest homicide rates, does any screening of seriously injured crime victims for PTSD. There is simply no money allocated to treat the roughly 8 percent of Americans who suffer from PTSD, rates that are of course higher in areas with high rates of violent crime. At Chicago's Cook County Hospital, which treats about 2,000 patients yearly for gunshots and other violent injuries, only a chaplain, a social worker and some social work interns are trying to see 5,00 people, according to the trauma center's prevention coordinator.
 A trauma surgeon in Jackson, Mississippi--where the per-capita homicide rate is higher than Chicago's--asks: 'If someone gets shot, and I save their life, and they can't go out and function--did I technically save their life? Probably not.'

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