I heard something appalling this morning while taking my son to school, and I need to rant a bit. It was in an NPR report about hiring fairs for military veterans. (No, those aren’t appalling, they’re great.)
One veteran reported that he’d had a lot of trouble getting a job and employers had actually told him point blank that they didn’t want to hire a veteran who’d been deployed overseas because they were afraid that if someone upset them they’d go nuts and start killing people.
Oy. There are two major problems here, so I’ve flipped a coin and decided to start with the assumption that all veterans have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Uh, yeah, not so much. Yes, the rates are high and they mean that veterans need to be screened and get appropriate treatment.
Flipping through sources I trust, I saw numbers in the 10-20% range. I might buy as high as 25% even. But that still means a veteran you encounter is more likely to be PTSD-free than not.
And…even if the veteran you encounter does have PTSD, that doesn’t automatically mean they’re going to flip out and start killing people! Jeez, people, do we live in the dark ages? Do we still think that mentally ill people have been taken over by demons or something? Exorcisms all around!
Obviously there are a lot of people who still don’t have the facts about PTSD. (I like the PTSD info from the National Institute of Mental Health and the Mayo Clinic, if you’re looking for clear explanations.) PTSD can be a serious mental illness and it deserves serious treatment, including medications and appropriate evidence-based therapies.
PTSD is no laughing matter, believe me. I have very strong feelings about getting more mental health professionals employed by the VA hospitals and getting better access for those who need help.
But PTSD is not a hair-trigger for murder. In fact, I’m fairly sure PTSD sufferers are a heck of a lot more likely to hurt themselves than other people. (See: alcoholism, suicide, drug abuse.)
Now, I’m not saying that people with PTSD never commit violent acts, because they certainly do…but you might have noticed that people without PTSD manage a large amount of violence too.
And, just to complicate matters, remember that you don’t have to have been in the military to have PTSD. Almost any traumatic event can cause it in those who are susceptible: car accidents, rape, child abuse, natural disasters. Oh yeah, and pregnancy, if it’s bad enough.
Do you think employers should ask if prospective employees have ever been in a car accident or ever been raped? “No, sorry, you were raped as a kid and I’m afraid you might snap and try to kill me.” Obviously that’s not acceptable. So I think it’s not acceptable for employers to say to veterans “Sorry, you were in combat, so I’m too afraid to hire you.”
Our veterans deserve better treatment, in both senses of that word.