Veterans & PTSD: Experts Dispel Myths, Focus on Real Repercussions

Veterans & PTSD: Experts Dispel Myths, Focus on Real Repercussions

The recent mass shooting in Thousand Oaks was one that hits close to home. As a Los Angeles-based law firm that has served clients throughout Southern California for decades, including residents of Ventura County and the Thousand Oaks area, our team at Biren Law Group is deeply saddened by the news of this tragedy, and extends our condolences to all the families affected.

While it is undeniably difficult to make sense of senseless tragedies such as these, the frequency with which they occur and the stories of those involved often make for around-the-clock media coverage. Although that is important to furthering conversations on important issues about protecting public safety, the many questions which arise in the aftermath, with the addition of widespread attention from the media and others, can result in myths and misconceptions, perpetuated half-truths, and distractions that prevent the general public from truly understanding the real issues at hand. This is most significantly apparent in the conversations surrounding the shooter, 28-year-old David Long, and his military service.

Attempting to Make Sense of a Senseless Tragedy

As many are well aware, news about the shooter’s military history quickly became a topic of focus in the media. Long, who was a resident of Newbury Park, a city neighboring Thousand Oaks and the Borderline Bar and Grill where the shooting took place, was a former U.S. Marine who served as a gunman overseas in Afghanistan. Naturally, this led many media outlets to draw inferences about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which has become associated with military veterans who serve in times of conflict.

Those same inferences weren’t just made by the media, they were also a natural response from many people across the country, people who casually knew Long in a limited scope, and even President Donald Trump, who publicly linked the shooting to PTSD. This is a common connection people make when trying to understand horrendous acts that may have few, if any, explanations. But as experts and veterans groups are quick to note, such statements linking Long’s actions with PTSD were premature.

Connecting the shooting to PTSD, experts state, also reinforces a stereotype that mental health professionals have long struggled to overcome: that veterans with PTSD are nothing more than ticking time bombs.

The Stigma: Understanding What PTSD Really Looks Like

According to advocates, linking the shooter and his actions to PTSD is a speculative step, and as with any speculation, is not supported by concrete facts. The shooter had never been diagnosed with PTSD connected to his service, though did have previous issues involving behavior and violence in the past. While this in itself does not eliminate the potential that he did struggle with PTSD-like symptoms or other mental health disorders, creating the link between PTSD and these types of violent acts without much personal knowledge of the facts is a dangerous and harmful trope used by many – and it serves only to further the stigma.

According to clinical psychologists, there are few things that should be pointed out about this stigma:

  • PTSD diagnoses do not signify a propensity to commit murder.
  • Although PTSD can be associated with higher rates of depression and suicide, and in some cases assault or battery, no evidence supports the notion that those with PTSD are more likely to commit murder than any other person.
  • Veterans with PTSD are more likely to harm themselves than others.
  • Roughly 300,000 veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD related to combat post-9/11, but only a handful of those vets have committed murder.

While the facts tend to dispel the myths perpetuated after these events, we clearly see the stigma lives strong. Experts believe that has a lot to do with the fact that mass shootings are committed overwhelmingly by males, and because roughly 20% of males in the U.S. have served in the military – so there is some probability that any man who commits murder or even a mass shooting has served in the military at some point.

Again, the facts still make it clear that military service doesn’t equate to murder. There are remarkably low murder rates among veterans who were diagnosed with PTSD in connection to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The numbers also show veterans with the condition are more likely to harm themselves, with roughly one Iraq and Afghanistan veteran committing suicide in the U.S. each day. That’s suicide, not homicide.

Biren Law Group: Fighting for Veterans

With the many misconceptions about PTSD and the misdirection stigmas can create when it comes to understanding the condition and its impact on veterans are tough to overcome, it’s important to remember there are a variety of issues involved in the complex study of psychology and mass violence, and that such connections may be inevitable from a large portion of the public, at least for the time being. In fact, many advocacy groups, including organizations like the MVAT Foundation, which our firm proudly supports, work day in and day out on increasing awareness about PTSD and other conditions among our veterans, and dispelling the myths surrounding them.

As a law firm with a special commitment to our nation’s veterans and their families, our team at Biren Law Group is well aware of the real struggles PTSD can create in their lives. These include issues that don’t have anything to do with violent murders or mass shootings, but rather the daily struggles of vets coping with serious conditions, such as:

  • Depression, anxiety, and negative thoughts
  • Flashbacks and nightmares
  • Changes in emotion, mood, cognition, and behavior (i.e. lost enjoyment of activities, memory problems, feeling of blame or guilty, etc.)
  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Social, family, and occupational problems
  • Avoidance systems (i.e. avoiding places or experiences reminiscent of trauma)
  • Arousal and reactivity symptoms (i.e. tenseness, sleeping difficulties, anger, etc.)

These types of issues can vary from person to person, but they all have the potential to create substantial disruption in the lives of veterans and their loved ones. Those struggles can also be exacerbated by new injuries, which is why our firm is on the forefront of working with advocacy groups and supporting veterans who suffer harm in preventable accidents when they seek compensation and special damages which address aggravation of PTSD and brain injury symptoms, and focus on the unique and often under-addressed setbacks vets and families face following personal injuries.

If you or someone you love are a military veteran who has recently been injured in a civilian accident, our legal team at Biren Law Group is available to provide the compassionate and knowledgeable representation you need. In addition to leveraging our decades of collective experience in personal injury law to fight for the best possible outcomes, our attorneys also have the insight and resources to help injured vets assess and address their need for special damages. Learn more by calling (310) 896-4345 for a free and confidential consultation.


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