Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fort Hood Has Experienced Other Kinds of Violence

Although the investigation of the shooting at Fort Hood last week is still underway, it seems clear that it wasn't the result of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But in the New York Times today, Michael Moss and Ray Rivera report on a different kind of violence that has been happening, quietly, in the town of Killeen, Tx, the town surrounding Ft. Hood.
Reports of domestic abuse have grown by 75 percent since 2001. At the same time, violent crime in Killeen has risen 22 percent while declining 7 percent in towns of similar size in other parts of the country. [...]

Since 2003, there have been 76 suicides by personnel assigned to Fort Hood, with 10 this year, according to military officials.

The shooting last week earned national attention, but in many ways, it is a freak occurrence. Domestic violence, violent crime, and suicide is far more typical in this Army base town.

Estimates vary, but the National Alliance on Mental Illness says some experts predict about 15 percent of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan will develop some form of PTSD. But the policy on how to treat PTSD is a bit underdeveloped. So far, the only way to treat PTSD is through therapy with a psychiatrist or psychologist, but the Veterans Administration doesn't employ nearly enough of them to effectively treat all of the cases of PTSD that can develop in veterans (and the DOD has a similar problem with active-duty soldiers). Furthermore, mental health professionals are a really expensive kind of employee that requires a lot of specialized training. How to effectively (and cheaply) treat the soldiers and veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan for PTSD is somewhat of a quagmire that lawmakers, the military, and activists continue to grapple with. It becomes complicated by some individuals who are reluctant to seek help because of the stigma that can sometimes be associated with seeking help from a mental health professional.

It's true that the majority of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan will return from duty, well adjusted and quickly readapt to civilian life. But for a minority of soldiers, the problems of PTSD extend to their families and their surrounding communities.

Cross posted.

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