A PTSD Crisis In American Neighborhoods

Mainstream discourse on PTSD has focused primarily on returned combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan; however, the condition is also striking Americans living in violent neighborhoods. ProPublica’s Lois Beckett writes about Americans facing PTSD as a result of the daily trauma they experience in their own neighborhood, “The PTSD Crisis That’s Being Ignored: Americans Wounded in Their Own Neighborhoods.”

In 2011, researchers started screening Chicago’s Cook County Hospitals, one of the country’s busiest trauma centers for PTSD. The hospital treats about 2,000 patients a year for gunshots, stabbings, and other violent injuries, so they expected to find some cases. They did not expect that 43% of patients they examined would have signs of PTSD.

Similar to veterans, civilians also experience flashbacks, nightmares, paranoia, and social withdrawal.

There are few mechanisms for screening and diagnosing Americans who develop PTSD in their own neighborhoods, says Beckett, even though the condition takes a toll on relationships and parenting, potentially leading to conflict and problems at work.  

While studies show that about 8 percent of Americans suffer from PTSD, the rates are much higher in communities where rates of high crime persist – communities like poor, majority African-American neighborhoods of Detroit, Atlanta, Chicago, and Philadelphia. Dr. Kerry Ressler, who investigated PTSD in Atlanta, told Beckett that, “The rates of PTSD we see are as high or higher than Iraq, Afghanistan or Vietnam veterans. We have a whole population who is traumatized.”

The full story is available here.