PTSD,Is More Prominent Than We Think, a Thought for Australian Government During Ptsd Awareness Month
I have suffered/lived with PTSD all my life, whilst younger the constant emotional stress created much confusion, yet, left untreated and unrecognised, I evolved as an adult still experiencing trauma, and still trying to 'fit' it into my everyday functional life. I feel I have done well, however, reflecting back writing my autobiography ‘ Girl Outlaw’, I see how life with PTSD has shadowed just about every choice I have made in life. Those that have experienced the condition itself have been able to pick up on my 'PTSD secret' and a wonderfully intelligent psychologist in the last year or so has been a tremendous help in my own acknowledgement of the condition. I am one of the lucky ones that can and continues to battle fitting PTSD into my life with as little disruption as possible. I am no longer on that lonely street and what a lonely street it has truly been. During this month of June as PTSD Awareness Month, I want to not only acknowledge our veterans living with PTSD, I want to raise awareness to the Australian Government, that there are other silent victims of PTSD that need to be acknowledged.
The silent group I want to highlight are: Incarcerated Perpetrators Of Some Crimes/Substance Abuse
My thoughts may evoke some anger, possibly even rebuttal with suggestions I may need my head read, however, having lived with PTSD myself for my entire life, my objective thinking on the comments I make are valid and worth the thought. I know myself, I have been on the wrong side of the law, too often than I wished to be, yet, it was my own heightened senses of the ‘fight or flight’ reflex that seen me react and cope with certain social situations that if I had not been living with the silence of PTSD, I would have handled differently minus the dark stormy cloud that hangs over my head always threatening a temperamental storm of confusion and raw primal emotions.
I call to the Australian Government, in particular, to seriously take to task the need for investigating possible links to PTSD and perpetrators of crime, in particular, violent crimes and substance abuse. Before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, I want to make it very clear I am not advocating for violent offenders, but I am suggesting that there may be a high number of people who may suffer PTSD, who are not aware that they do. As mentioned, I have lived with post-traumatic stress disorder all my life; I have also been a victim of extreme violence and abuse, I have also reacted to certain situations inappropriately and with violence due to recall, as well as the intensely conditioned, heightened senses of that recall. I am not a violent person, I am not predisposed to enjoy the pain or intimidation of others, hence, my understanding and highlighting what I feel could be a silent epidemic within some age groups of Australians.
Given that Australia is in the midst of a royal commission into child sexual abuse and other abuse stemming back some 30+ years from an Australia that was very different and sadly a time where many turned a blind eye to things that are mandatory to be reported in this day and age, we need to consider a massive group of people who have endured horrendous violence, trauma and/or sexual abuse. These victims are possibly not diagnosed and made choices, possibly harmed others and have found themselves incarcerated within the prison systems throughout the country. I understand that millions of people throughout our world endure the most incredibly horrid lives, upbringing, and a majority do not make criminal choices and with the most astounding strength change the hand they were dealt. What we need to understand is that PTSD IS NOT A CHOICE, and reactions to situations, especially volatile situations may have had a different ending if there was no interference from the ‘conditioning’ of post-traumatic stress. Whether we care to admit it or not, I surmise there would be a huge number of Australians who grew up in the 50’s to the late 80’s who are potentially living with acute PTSD. Australia was very different then, and many things tucked neatly away in the closet, that are finding their way out into the open now, as many investigations and commissions throughout this country are finding out. To understand my call to the government, we must first understand what PTSD is.
POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (P.T.S.D) | WHAT IS IT ?
"...a condition of persistent mental and emotional stress occurring as a result of injury or severe psychological shock, typically involving disturbance of sleep and constant vivid recall of the experience, with dulled responses to others and to the outside world..."
We know by recent newspaper headlines there have been some vile atrocities come to the forefront of a very tormented generation of Australians. What I am suggesting to the Government, and you the reader is not a ‘get out of jail free’ pass nor is it a suggestion that traumatised people do not face consequences for their actions, especially if they have committed abhorrent violence and/or sexual abuse toward another person. What I am suggesting is a conscious acknowledgement and ‘system’ plan to be able to recognise and identify perpetrators of violence or people who seem to have displayed an ‘out of character’ act of violence in a given environment that potentially sees a person imprisoned for an act of violence (or in their minds possibly defense) when they have no other ‘criminal violent history’ on the radar.
WHERE DO WE PUT THESE MEASURES IN PLACE ~ HOW WILL THEY WORK ?
I do not know the answer to this. I can understand that it could be abused and used by those that have a character for violence without being traumatised. I also understand, that often both police and lawyers use psychiatrists to assess perpetrators of crime. But, how many would look for PTSD? and that is where I would like to suggest a change.
The possibility of training for police is always a great place to start. Recently we have heard of return soldier suffering PTSD being placed in immigration detention for breaking the law which was triggered by PTSD. He sadly since has been deported back to his country of origin, with his Australian residency cancelled even though he had spent 30+ years, since infancy in Australia. This is merely one small example of someone being harshly penalised and slipping through the cracks of a system that is not trained, nor set up to recognise and deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Here I would like to make some ‘dot’ points on suggestions for adopting a system for recognising potential PTSD sufferers;
- Awareness and acceptance by the Australian Government that there are realistically 2 to 3 generations of Australians that are afflicted with PTSD
- Government ensures law enforcement/police adopt extra training to be able to recognise potential PTSD sufferers
- Persons within the age brackets of the 1950’s to late 1980’s that are arrested and/or have substance abuse issues, that it be mandatory for psychological assessment to ascertain possible PTSD
- Mandatory assessment through either police prosecution/defense lawyer for PTSD for anyone who has committed out of character acts of violence/ substance abuse
- Mandatory follow-up of support and treatment for a person within the prison system if diagnosed with PTSD
I can hear many of you saying “ more expense for the taxpayer”, but let us be realistic about this. We know through the continual news of yet another victim of violence, hidden abuse whether it be in the home, the church, orphanages, etc., that there is going to be a lot more to come; we have only hit the tip of the iceberg I believe. We must ask ourselves how many already imprisoned are potential PTSD sufferers and how many of them do not know it? Then we must ask ourselves realistically, if they are left not being diagnosed, do we truly want the pattern to repeat either for them or society? Which brings us to the question, do we truly feel it's right to allow these people and/or treat them as a burden to society just because we are not prepared to address the very real possibility that there are people in prison who have acted out on the stress and recall of PTSD?
What Are The Benefits Of Mandatory Screening/Assessment For Potential PTSD Sufferer’s?
- Effectively, the benefits are actually a saving to the Australian taxpayer. Potentially, we are minimising the cost of imprisonment or a cycle of violence/substance abuse if we can effectively acknowledge and treat those with the disorder.
- Treatment and support for sufferers already within the prison system.
- Treatment and support of sufferers identified through mandatory screening prior to imprisonment.
- Mandatory assessment potentially could save a sufferer from committing a crime that sees them imprisoned.
- Mandatory assessment, support and treatment could minimise stress on the sufferer, family and the community by helping someone who is suffering recognise that they are ‘not bad’, and that there is a reason for the way they recall and react. Sadly too many just write them self off without knowing why.
Sadly, I am not a doctor, I am not a police officer nor a politician. What I am is a person that is aware that PTSD is more prevalent and common than we think. It doesn’t just affect our very brave return soldiers. To recognise its depths we must first acknowledge and become aware that there are more afflicted by it than we presume.
I brace myself for readers negative reaction to my call for the Government to consider that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has a further reach than is identified. I only know through my own experiences with the condition and those that I have come into contact with, that an awareness, particularly for the age of generations I have highlighted should be considered. I just like anyone else, believe that if you do the crime you do the time, I do not believe there should be soft options for perpetrators of horrific violence and abuse just because they had a nasty childhood themselves. What I do believe is that perpetrators who are potentially enduring the pain of PTSD should be diagnosed and helped.
© Kartanya Martinez 2016
© 2016 Kartanya Martinez