The consequences of untreated trauma and PTSD can be horrific.
On Feb. 20, 2007, Scott Dekraai saw his shipmate Piper Cameron killed. She was pulling in a 2-inch thick tow line to another tugboat, when it suddenly snapped taut and pinned her against the bulwark, crushing her to death. Scott leaped to save her but was himself struck by the line that tossed him aside and broke his leg. After undergoing 7 hours of surgery, he spent the next month in the hospital. Though he did manage to go to Piper’s funeral.
He never walked well again and remained on permanent disability. From his wife’s reports, he was deeply affected by the event on the tugboat and suffered from sleeplessness, flashbacks of the event, bursts of uncontrolled anger, and constant anxiety–all signs of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
So what happened to this hero?
As with many victims of PTSD, his marriage deteriorated. Then, on Oct. 12, after losing a bid for more visitations with his son, he walked into the Salon Meritage in Seal Beach, Ca., and opened fired on his ex-wife and anyone else who was there. Eight died, and one was left in critical condition.
Very few who suffer from PTSD end up in such a shocking tragedy. But enough do so that is urgent that we raise the awareness of the dangers of untreated trauma and PTSD.
In the last few years, Colorado Springs, a military town in Colorado where many vets return from Iraq and Afghanistan, has suffered a barrage of shootings, suicides, vehicular deaths, and killings involving vets with PTSD. This town at the base of the Rockies has earned the honor of being the most dangerous city in the U.S.
I’m not suggesting that PTSD causes homicidal tendencies. Nor should Scott receive special consideration for his condition. But trauma and PTSD can impact the ability to control one’s emotions and impulses. Over time, it can aggravate a predisposition to violence (or someone trained in violence like combat soldiers) and loosen the mechanisms in the brain that stop one from acting on those impulses.
The massacre in Seal Beach is a warning to those with PTSD. Get help! Although someone with trauma and PTSD may not kill anyone, they will still harm themselves, their families, and their friends with their changed behaviors and emotions.
If you know someone who suffers from trauma and PTSD, urge them to get help.
For more information, contact me.
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