Search This Blog

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

First Coast veteran’s fall from grace showcases need for PTSD care

This is one of those "heads I win, tails you lose" dilemmas that face veterans and their families. The criminal justice system is rarely interested in the problems of returning veterans.
They need treatment not prison.
We all remember Kojack, the TV detective, saying "Round up all the recently discharged Vietnam veterans," whenever there was a murder. People who were having flashbacks and doing what they were trained to do wound up in prison like Nathan did. And the prosecutor would say to the judge, "This man is a trained killer and a danger to society." One study I read showed that they got longer sentences for the same crimes.
The police didn't know how to deal with veterans in flashbacks or rages, either. Some of them got shot. Some succeeded in committing suicide by cop.
One group, Nam Vets of Alachua County was formed after the cops shot a Vietnam vet who had PTSD. The cops had tried to get help from our local VA Hospital but were told that no one could come talk to him. It was illegal for them to go. Of course, I asked my mother, Constance G. Hartwell, MD, a psychiatrist at the Boston VA Outpatient Clinic, and she said that in Boston they would and could go. Each VA is a feifdom, however, and ours had a bad attitude at the time and the worst PTSD program in the country.
The guys in Nam Vets went out on calls whenever asked. Some of them, and me, took training at the local Crisis Center and worked on the suicide hot line. We need more of that kind of activism.
You can read more about Veteran's Courts here and here
We need to work to make changes that allow for the problems of our returning veterans instead of forgetting about them. Years ago I was at a trauma conference and heard William Mahedy, Vietnam vet, priest, and author of Out of the Night told us that in 1972, they did a survey of the bums on skid row in LA, and 75 percent of them were WWII combat vets. Those are the members of the greatest generation you don't hear about. Today we would call them homeless, not bums. We have a chance to intervene and keep them in homes and out of jail and off skid row.


  1. Thanks, to my lists...

    Willie Hager
    VVAW Fl First Coast Contact

  2. Thank you very much for your blog. I read it every day. It has really helped me. Veterans Courts, GOD Speed<><

  3. I have PTSD from extreme abuse from domestic violence and rape... I know the hell I go through on a daily basis...a soldier, a veteran I am not, but a citizen who thinks no one who serves as a defender of this country should be left with out appropriate care and acknowledgement of this illness.
    My godson came back fromtour in Afghanistan and Iraq suffering with this... he was told to wait a few months see if it goes away before they offered him treatment...
    It doesn't just go away it is not like a bee sting or scrape

  4. If you need help finding mental health providers in your area, you can visit The Citizen Soldier Support Program is working toward providing service members and their families support within their home towns. This is an awesome way to find a provider in your area who works in your interest areas and accepts your type of insurance!