Homegrown PTSD – Blame America’s Dangerous Neighborhoods

by Diane Dimond on February 24, 2014

PTSD – Homegrown Cases on the Rise

Think about the least desirable neighborhoods around you. You know the places I’m talking about – the areas you think twice about going to in the daytime and deliberately avoid at night. Those zones where police officers are most often called to respond to reports of shootings, stabbings and murders.

Now, think about the people who live in those crime infested neighborhoods. Think of the young people who grow up watching the violence all around them and fearing it will come for them.

A recent article by journalists at ProPublica.org quoted a growing list of studies that have compared what happens to people who live in dangerous neighborhoods here at home with what happens to soldiers serving in war zones. The unanimous conclusion is that residents of violent neighborhoods can suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder just as so many of our soldiers do. Just like veterans, civilians can experience flashbacks, nightmares, paranoia, and social withdrawal.

While the military has established protocols for diagnosing PTSD in soldiers there are barely any programs in place to help civilians. You can count on one hand the number of hospital emergency rooms that bother to question victims of community violence, those who come in seeking treatment for a stabbing or gunshot wound.

Sometimes the War Zones Are Here at Home

We know from research on military personnel that PTSD is a very real, very terrifying syndrome in which the sufferer has a sudden and distorted sense of being in imminent and extreme danger. They become horrified, hyper-aggressive and violent in response. The gather weapons to help them fight off their perceived threats.

If these recent studies about the growing number of civilian PTSD cases are on target – (one from Drexel University, for example, found homegrown PTSD victims are more likely to carry a weapon in order to “restore feelings of safety”) — doesn’t it behoove us to pay closer attention to neighborhoods that could be producing human ticking time bombs?

It doesn’t take a risk assessment expert to peg this problem as a solid public safety issue.

After a catastrophic event like the 9-11 attacks, the Oklahoma City bombing or a devastating hurricane mental health experts flood in to offer counselling and follow up treatment. Currently, however, only one U.S. hospital performs routine PTSD screening.

Investigates Civilian PTSD Cases

ProPublica contacted top trauma centers in the 21 U.S. cities with the highest murder rates. Only the Spirit of Charity Hospital in New Orleans has their emergency room doctors routinely monitor for PTSD and offer treatment options to the incoming wounded.

At Cook County Hospital in Chicago’s inner city a pilot program began in 2011 to identify PTSD symptoms in pediatric patients. Now, social workers report 42 percent of all patients examined for gunshots, stabbings and other violent injuries had signs of PTSD symptoms. Most of them were male but, when questioned, women and whole families reported “significant levels of PTSD.”

Researchers in Atlanta questioned 8,000 inner-city dwellers and learned that two-thirds had been violently attacked, about half of them knew someone who had been murdered and 1 person out of every 3 interviewed reported having had PTSD symptoms sometime in their lives.

“The rates of PTSD we see are as high or higher than Iraq, Afghanistan or Vietnam veterans,” Project leader Dr. Kerry Ressler said. “We have a whole population who is traumatized.”

Studies: Community Violence = PTSD

ProPublica reports that at Detroit’s Receiving Hospital psychologists talk with susceptible patients about PTSD but there’s no real program in place. Staffs at hospital trauma units in Birmingham, Alabama and St. Louis, Missouri say they hope to begin routine PTSD screening by the end of the year. And, doctors in Baltimore, Newark, Memphis and Jackson, Mississippi all said they would like to have such a program but their hospitals simply don’t have the money.

The bills of low income patients are most often paid by Medicaid which doesn’t cover PTSD screenings. Maybe the program should reconsider as a bit of public money spent now could save a lot more in the future.

Regular readers of this column know the rate of crime has been going down, nationally, but still there are pockets in America where rates of violent crime continue to escalate.

There are whole neighborhoods in the United States that are so dangerous they are, literally, creating a clinically definable group of people who could violently lash out at any given moment. Think of the damage done in terms of getting an education, family relationships, parenting skills, and, in many cases, the frequent inability of adult PTSD victims to hold down a job. You know who pays for their unemployment benefits. We all do. We also pay for food stamps, child welfare, housing allowances, the cost of family and juvenile court and incarceration costs.

PTSD in Inner-City Children is on the Rise

There are so many politicians who, during election cycles, wax eloquently about working for the well-being of all citizens, doing what’s best for the economy and society at large. Funny, I don’t hear many speak about crime, justice or concrete ideas to make us safer where we live.

I guess it comes down to this: Do we want to offer better policing, meaningful counselling and maybe even a relocation stipend to those who have endured violent acts in their own communities – or do we want to wait until something awful happens and pay the increased freight on the back end?

There’s no getting around it. Researchers have been studying this problem since the late 90’s and all have come to the same conclusion. There are parts of America that are as damaging to human beings as the worst foreign war zones.



Diane Dimond February 24, 2014 at 9:21 pm

Facebook Friend Dave Imb writes:

“Some of the kids I taught were definitely traumatized from the violence in their current or former neighborhoods, and they’re only 11-13 years old. It’s like they’re undermined before they even had a chance.”

Diane Dimond February 24, 2014 at 9:24 pm

Facebook Friend Linda Oleksyk writes:

“You reminded me of a poignant news story that I saw on the increasing use of tranquilizers by the citizens of Afghanistan. The stress of living in a war-torn environment closely resembles dealing with daily life in a dangerous urban area.”

Diane Dimond February 24, 2014 at 9:26 pm

ABQ Journal Reader / Mickey Dowling aka Dr. David Shern writes:

“Ms. Diamond or should I say Ms. Demonizer. The last time you wrote I had to modify your fear provoking behavior because you slide in these tidbits of stigmatizing, untruths, ignorant opinions that you intersperse with some loose facts and criminalization of persons with a perceived Disorder that you specify.

Listen to yourself QUOTE: ” Doesn’t it BEHOOVE us to pay closer attention to neighborhoods that could be producing TICKING TIME BOMBS.
Perhaps the ticking Time Bomb” is you!!!.

I do not really want to make this about me but because not having a release and foremost being embarrassed to steer anyone else near your typewriter I will speak about myself.

Born into abject poverty from Immigrant Parents who got off the boat at Ellis Island. 47 dollars between 2 people; one with a Green Card one with a Tourist Visa.

My address was 68th and Ashland in the West Englewood section of the South Side of Chicago. During one early teenage year there was around 1100 murders. Last year with all its Murder Capital of America hype maybe it was in the high 500’s and in 2012 high 600’s.

I joined the United States Marines for safety and have been out 36 years never in a trouble, have not been hospitalized and up until my Diabetes had not gone to the Veterans Administration
The lack of safety I experienced was not because I was a minority in the toughest NEIGHBORHOD in Chicago.. My family members some with attitudes similar to you were solely responsible for a PTSD that is so severe. Several prominent M.D Psychiatrist say I am the Poster Boy for that Diagnosis The streets were the release from the pain.

It may sound like I am embellishing except I have about 7 more Diagnosis and none of them are fun.

You missed something; actually a lot. .My family did not have Shell Shock ,Battle Fatigue or grow up in the an Urban Area. Their history of Poverty, witnessing Domestic Violence, alcoholic seizures, abuse by the heavy handed Christian Brothers religious order of priest.

They bonded with their abusers and when it became my turn as a kid they threw me to the Priest and Seminary’s. Except in 1972 the Archdiocese of Chicago had a reached their APEX of predators. The lawsuits and victories came much later for some

So here is a new word for you. It is called HISTORICAL PTSD. Can you figure out who would be predisposed to it or do you care? How about ABORIGENES , AFRICAN AMEICANS, JEWS, { my wife had much family perish in the Stettle} of the Ghetto’s of POLAND , NATIVE AMERICANS, MEXICAN AMERICANS , FUNDAMETALIST RELIGOUS GROUPS plus every other area only YOU!! could miss.

Please keep your manufactured middle class white fright to yourself.

Here is the most damaging , disempowering unpatriotic crap I ever heard. Your and your friends actually went to College to print this very easy to see Propaganda and Veteran Stereotype.

Quote:” We know from research on military personnel that PTSD is a very real, very treatable syndrome in which the sufferer has a sudden and distorted sense of being in imminent danger. They become horrified , hyper aggressive in response. They gather weapons to help them fight off their perceived threats.” END of Quote. Thank God.

I am the President and Co Director of the Mental Health Association of New Mexico. An affiliate of Mental Health America. last time I had to rebut something you wrote you got acutely angry, see because in your head your never wrong.

Our are and Statewide has the highest PTSD { MORA COUNTY} the highest Suicides, the most Veterans with PTSD, the most Veterans period and our Agency does not bill, has great outcomes, can build trust and relationships and incidentally the Poorest State in the U.S.A.

I understand you were a Broadcast Journalist in Albuquerque and some Reagan Gopher.

Your Publishers, affiliated Newsgroups and Readers need to fire you for cause.
Study up, read the ADA and apologize. the real reason why your name needs to be dropped from every paper in the World. You have no sense of compassion or reality. Apologize!!

If you are to prideful too you have this article as your Legacy. Mine gets bigger every day.

Happy Birthday!!! Dr. David Shern CEO Mental Health America”

Diane Dimond February 24, 2014 at 9:32 pm

Mr. Dowling/Dr. Shern:

First, my last name has no “A” in it and it is not my birthday. In addition, I never get angry when readers write me with reaction to one of my columns. Quite the contrary. I’m always intrigued to hear what they have to say.

While you insist, “I do not really want to make this about me…” Your note seems to consist entirely of things that are about you.

I’m sorry I must disagree with you that only soldiers who have killed by intimate means (God bless them all) are the only ones who can suffer with PTSD.

That conclusion is just not supported by the facts. But thanks for writing. ~ DD

Diane Dimond February 24, 2014 at 9:39 pm

Reader Casey Troy:

“I’m sure you will get a lot of these, but PTSD has nothing to do with living through traumatic events per se.
The book “On Killing” by Lt.Col. Dave Grossman best lays out the facts on this very real disorder, misunderstood by most people. He gives the example of concentration camp survivors or those who survived Dresden, Hiroshima or just about any other horrific event DO NOT generally exhibit the pathology of PTSD.
PTSD comes from personally killing another human being, the more up close, the worse the PTSD. Bayonetting or strangling another soldier in combat is the gold standard for this type of killing.
Bomber pilots, even artillery soldiers (those who kill from stand-off) do not suffer PTSD although they were personally responsible for many deaths.
As with most things, it’s not so much the lies but the inaccuracies that that really keep us from understanding.
Life in the Ghetto is no picnic, but let’s save the PTSD diagnosis for those who truly have suffered (i.e. forced to break the ultimate taboo in a very personal way)”

Casey L. Troy
Socorro, NM

Diane Dimond February 27, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Twitter Pal Lookfromhere writes:

“@DiDimond i see major drug addiction not #PTSD .”

Diane Dimond February 27, 2014 at 4:29 pm


Perhaps the one stems from the other? Drug addiction often goes hand-in-hand with depression and hopelessness. ~ DD

Diane Dimond March 1, 2014 at 1:45 pm

Twitter pal kreal writes:

“@DiDimond this article does us a disservice labeling PTSD Veterans and ppl in Ghettos as ticking time bombs thats a common stereotype untrue.”

Diane Dimond March 1, 2014 at 1:46 pm

DiDimond responds:

@kreal Thats not what the article does, Kreal. It only id’s the PTSD problem as being a wider issue than just vets. Room 4 all victims, yes? ~ DD

Pj Wilcox November 12, 2014 at 9:30 pm

think of the stress that a soldier faces knowing he cannot engage the enemy until first fired upon? Who made these rules? This is total BS
I suggest that if a congressman or senator who is a eye doctor, lawyer, farmer, plumber want to micro manage the military they must be embedded on the front line with our well trained disciplined troops. They must eat MRIs, take whores baths, (bath from your helmet with water in it) sleep when you can on the ground, carry 85 packs and experience what it is like to be shot at and attacked. Imagine having to move rapidly following or moving away from the driven narrative? No high heels or limos allowed. Then the real test. This is costly. A soldier gets mortally wounded but before he or she takes the last breath, go hold this person in your arms and console them. Take the msg you are given that this brave soldier whispers in your ear and then go tell the parents. But, no, not yet. This is only your first day of 27 days. Did I mention you will have no cell phone. A camera team is following you watching and recording everything you do and say. You have no control over what they shoot or record. After 27 days you must return to DC un showered in your fatigues. Think you smell?
Now, I dare you to return to your old ways of micro managing
Harry Reid, John Boehner, Rand Paul, Nancy Pelosi
Think this might allow our military to do their job? Get it over and go have a beer?

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