PTSD and domestic violence

Written by Eric on November 11, 2008 in: Uncategorized |

Just in time for Veterans’ Day, there’s a growing realization that America’s 24 million vets are experiencing domestic violence in greater numbers than the general population at large.

Two professors at Washington University in St. Louis are teaming up to address this problem. One’s a specialist in post-traumatic stress disorder, while the other works with domestic violence.

“Treatments for domestic violence are very different from those for PTSD,” Monica Mattieu, Ph.D., an expert in vets’ mental health at Washington University, told Medical News Today. “The Department of Veterans Affairs has mental health services and treatments for PTSD, yet these services need to be combined with the specialized domestic violence intervention programs offered by community agencies for those veterans engaged in battering behavior against intimate partners and families.”

VA research shows that male vets with PTSD are two to three times more likely than vets without PTSD to be engaged in domestic violence and/or the legal system.

Vets are at higher risk anyway, partly due to the violence combat vets became accustomed to on the battlefield. Some of it may be due to traumatic brain injuries they brought home. But much of it is due to the depression and anger many combat vets experience. The Rand Corp recently released a report that said one in three vets will return home needing medical help for PTSD, TBI, major depression or a combination al all three.

“Veterans need to have multiple providers coordinating the care that is available to them, with each provider working on one treatment goal,” said Mattieu. Coordinated community response efforts such as this bring together law enforcement, the courts, social service agencies, community activists and advocates for women to address the problem of domestic violence.”

Again, the whole focus should be on understanding the cause of a problem and working to fix it, rather than the hard-nosed — and ultimately unworkable — approach of locking people up and throwing away the key. Our corrections system is a classic failure, so we have to create new approaches that will be more effective. As they say in the treatment community, insanity is continuing the same tactics and hoping for different outcomes.

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There’s hope

Written by Eric on November 6, 2008 in: Uncategorized |

Tuesday’s presidential election promises a bright new day for America after eight long years of the Bush Administration, although the New York Times had an ominous editorial this week about the civil liberties infringements and environmental damage it fears in the next 100 days before Barack Obama actually takes office.

Many political commentators thought that much of the popular vote for Obama was, in fact, a vote against President Bush. I suspect that’s true — Bush has done enormous damage to this country. I was intrigued to see an analysis by The Times of London ranking U.S. presidents. Bush came in 38th or 39th in a dead heat with Richard Milhouse Nixon, just behind Herbert Hoover whose administration was sandbagged by the great depression. Last on the list was James Buchanan, under whose lack of leadership the nation plunged into the Civil War. Leading the list was the man who inherited that mess, Abraham Lincoln.

So following a failure, Obama also has a good chance to succeed. I hope he can find a dignified way to quickly back out of the Iraqi-Afghan conflict, which has nearly bankrupted this nation, and bring our troops safely home. In addition to saving lives, that will cut a lot of our excess spending — a billion dollars a day, do I remember reading? But Obama’s hands will still be tied because Bush has run the national debt up to $10 trillion — one dollar of four that the government spends on discretionary budget items now goes to pay interest on all the money we’ve borrowed. By taking over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government may have taken on another $6 trillion in bad debt. And the Treasury Department is just beginning to take on another massive amount of debt to pay for the bailout of the nation’s financial institutions. (How can they call the Bushes and Ronald Reagan conservatives? They didn’t conserve a damn thing.)

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) has written to Obama to congratulate him on his victory, but also to ask him to convene an urgent presidential summit of leading veterans, to advance-fund VA health care, to implement GI Bill transferability, and to issue a national call for mental health professionals to help care for vets coming back from combat with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.

Right on! Our new president should consider health care for veterans as part of the national debt. We owe that to them for what we’ve asked them to go through, and we can no more default on that debt than we can on any other.

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Violent at home

Written by Eric on November 4, 2008 in: Uncategorized |

I don’t often agree with the lawyers, but there’s one in Colorado who’s right on the money.

Earlier this week, Kenneth Eastridge, 24, a soldier who had previously been deployed to Iraq, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for being an accessory to the shooting death of another Iraqi veteran, Kenneth Shields.

Prosecutors said another Iraqi vet, Louis Bressler, killed Shields after the two of them fought in a park in Colorado Springs and Eastridge later helped get rid of evidence.

“I don’t have the right to ask for forgiveness, but I just hope that everybody knows someday that I really am sorry,” Eastridge said, visibly shaking as he read his statement in court on Monday

Eastridge’s attorney, Sheilagh McAteer, said during the sentencing hearing that he was the least culpable of the defendants. She said Eastridge didn’t actually participate in the attack but watched from the backseat of a car and helped get rid of evidence because he felt he had to help a friend.

McAteer said that during two tours in Iraq, Eastridge manned a machine gun on top of a Humvee and saw “more battles and bloodshed as a 19-year-old than most will ever see in a lifetime.”

She said he suffered a serious head injury when a roadside bomb struck his Humvee during his first tour, tossing him 30 to 60 feet. She said a pre-sentence report found Eastridge suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and she blamed the military for discharging him without medical help.

She’s right. We’re repeating the same short-sighted behavior that Americans adopted post-Vietnam, and we’re doomed to pay the same huge price in lost lives and perpetual personal pain unless we find ways to help vets deal with the emotional trauma that they return from combat with.

However, both El Paso County District Judge Theresa Cisneros and Shields’ family rejected McAteer’s argument. “He needs to take responsibility,” Debra Shields said. “He’s a grown man. He can ask for help.”

That’s kind of like asking an accident victim with a broken leg to walk to the hospital for help. Post-traumatic stress disorder is an emotional injury that most vets try to deny, especially active-duty soldiers who fear they’ll lose their jobs if they can’t handle the stress they’re subjected to.

According to a report by The Associated Press, one of the other defendants, Bruce Bastien Jr., was sentenced in September to 60 years in prison. He pleaded guilty to being an accessory to murder in Shields’ death and conspiring to commit murder in the August 2007 death of another soldier, Robert James.

Eastridge, Bastien and Bressler are three of at least five soldiers deployed to Iraq with the 4th Brigade Combat Team who have been accused in slayings in the past 15 months. A sixth faces attempted murder charges.

Army commanders said they have formed a task force to identify any commonalities in the slayings allegedly committed by the soldiers.

To me, that smells like a face-saving maneuver. It’s obvious that these soldiers need help, and a competent commander would be demanding that they get it immediately.

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