There are several depression screening tools that professionals administer that are cost effective and provide concrete data that can be used in court.

Symptoms of depression that could affect a veteran’s functioning are;
  • sad or irritable mood
  • inability to experience pleasure,
  • appetite and sleep changes
  • feelings of worthlessness
  • decreased ability to think or concentrate.
  • suicidal ideation

Suicidal ideation is a serious symptom. Some individuals with depression deliberately engage police because they want to be shot. This is called “suicide by cop.” Veterans are also more likely than civilians to own a firearm. Symptoms of depression can be increased with the use of central nervous system depressants such as alcohol.

Substance abuse can be an issue for returning veterans.

The Department of Veteran Affairs estimates that one in ten veterans seen in the VA system has a problem with alcohol and other drugs. In the example above, Mr. Smith was using alcohol to cope with his symptoms and the stress of adjusting to civilian life. Veterans may use substances to help with sleep disturbance, anxiety and to cope with their memories.

Veterans are at high risk for PTSD

According to the American Psychiatric Association (2013), the diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD) is based on the development of symptoms following exposure to one or more traumatic events such as combat. Factors that influence a veteran’s vulnerability to PTSD are continuous operations and survivor guilt when comrades are severely or mortality injured. In recent wars, soldiers do not always know who or where the enemy is. Suicide bombers and IEDs are often hidden. This creates a feeling of continues anxiety and hypervigilance that is brought to civilian life. When the rules of engagement prevent service members from engaging the enemy, as occurred with Mr. Smith it can also increase their risk for psychological problems.

Symptoms of PTSD that veterans might experience are;

  • recurrent intrusive memories
  • recurrent nightmares
  • dissociative reactions. These can range from flashbacks to complete lack of awareness of surroundings.
  • psychological and physical distress. This distress is experienced when they are exposed to stimuli that reminds them of the trauma. Examples would be fireworks, the sight of blood or loud noises.
  • avoidance of memories, thoughts or feelings that are associated with the traumatic event. They may not wish to talk about their military service.
  • negative beliefs and expectations of self and the world.
  • irritable and angry outbursts with little or no provocation. The individual can be verbally or physically aggressive toward people or objects.

Treatment of PTSD involves therapy and medication to help decrease arousal and process the trauma into long term memory.


For our criminal newsletter and blog this month we are reviewing veterans re-entry into civilian life and the medical issues that influence their thinking and behavior. The blog topics for this month are:

  • Hypothetical Scenario (3/6/15)
  • Psychiatric Issues  (3/13/15)
  • Blast Injury (3/20/15)
  • Veteran’s Court (3/27/15)

Note: To see all posts in this topic, click here

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