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PTSD: The hidden wounds for victims of violent crime

When most people hear about a condition like post-traumatic stress disorder, a particular image frequently comes to mind: war. We associate PTSD with returning veterans, because the horrors witnessed and experienced in a war zone leave many soldiers with long-lasting or even permanent psychological scars.

But PTSD also exists right here in the United States among countless individuals who have never even considered military service. Many may not realize they have the condition because it has never been diagnosed. Most have been victims of violent crime and some have grown up in neighborhoods where such activity is sadly commonplace.

Most of us could probably call to mind such neighborhoods here in Philadelphia and other large Pennsylvania cities. The journalism group Pro Publica recently profiled the problem of PTSD in Chicago, which is widely considered to be one of the country’s most violent crime-ridden areas.

The effects of this violence can be seen in the trauma center at Chicago’s Cook County Hospital. There are about 2,000 patients that come through the center each year to be treated for violent-crime injuries like gunshots and stab wounds. A few years ago, researchers decided to start screening trauma-center patients for signs of PTSD. They found that about 43 percent of patients exhibited PTSD symptoms.

Thankfully, PTSD screening and resources are becoming more widely available in Philadelphia. City officials have been coordinating with mental health providers in the area to more systematically screen for PTSD. Local therapists are also being trained in proven treatment methods.

If you have been the victim of a violent crime, please remember that post-traumatic stress disorder is a serious threat to your long-term health. It may take several months for symptoms to present, but when they do, they can significantly disrupt your life and sense of wellbeing.

Criminal charges against your attacker are often appropriate and necessary, but there are also civil remedies available. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you seek the compensation you need and deserve in order to pay for medical bills, therapy and other costs.

Source: Pro Publica, "The PTSD Crisis That’s Being Ignored: Americans Wounded in Their Own Neighborhoods," Lois Beckett, Feb. 3, 2014

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