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Focus: Returning war vets, stress disorder and domestic violence

| Nov 21, 2011 | Divorce |

Approximately 75 percent of American combat veterans who have sought treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after returning to the United States from tours in Iraq or Afghanistan admit to having family readjustment problems.

Sometimes — and to a degree unrivaled by civilian families — those problems are rooted in domestic abuse. Occasionally they feature what researchers call “intimate partner violence” that can be deadly, either to a victim of abuse inside a family or to the perpetrator.

The story of Jared Hagemann, a hardened Army Ranger of eight tours of combat duty in the Middle East, drives home that point. Rather than embark on an ordered ninth deployment, Hagemann committed suicide this past summer. His death has spurred greater public interest and research in the connection between PTSD — with which he was diagnosed — family violence and, sometimes, a combat veteran taking his own life.

A currently ongoing study in which researchers are interviewing combat vets at medical facilities in the Puget Sound region of Washington reveals a high incidence of domestic violence accompanying a PTSD diagnosis in married vets.

Six of every 10 vets who have been interviewed say that they have committed “mild to moderate” acts of violence against their partners.

“I was amazed by that figure,” says Shawn Kennedy, chief editor of the American Journal of Nursing.

Researchers find two things especially troubling. First, many health care providers don’t seem to be picking up the connection that often exists between PTSD and family abuse, and sometimes suicide. In the medical records examined, few of them inquired about such matters when examining a vet with PTSD.

Second, a constantly growing number of returning combat vets is being diagnosed with the disorder, which will undoubtedly result in more cases of domestic abuse and loss of life in the future.

Researchers want that out in the open and aggressively dealt with through counseling and treatment.

Source: Seattle Weekly, “Jared Hagemann’s tale illustrates big problem among vets: domestic violence” Nov. 11, 2011

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