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PTSD: National Center for PTSD

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PTSD and Veterans


Police Officer Toolkit


PTSD and Veterans

Anyone can be exposed to a traumatic event, and anyone exposed to a traumatic event can go on to have PTSD symptoms. Military Veterans are unique because they are more likely to have experienced multiple traumatic events than the general population. Veterans are also likely to have strengths and values based on their experiences in the military, and to have completed specialized training in tactics, weapons, and use of deadly force in urban environments. If police have awareness of these factors, they may be more prepared and effective when encountering Veterans with PTSD.

How common is PTSD in Veterans?

The best estimates for rates of PTSD in the general population indicate around 6-7% of Americans will experience PTSD as some point during their lifetime3. Military Veterans show higher rates; about 8-35% of Veterans will experience PTSD. Different sub-populations of Veterans are more likely to have higher rates, including those with higher combat exposure6.

It is important to note that despite higher rates of PTSD among Veterans in comparison to the general population, most Veterans will never experience PTSD. However, little is known about the prevalence of PTSD specifically among those who are the focus of police calls. The rates of PTSD among these Veterans can be expected to be higher than among Veterans in general or the general population, given that the rates of combat-related PTSD have been reported at 37% in incarcerated Iraq and Afghanistan (OIF/OEF/OND) Veterans7. Veterans involved in your calls are also more likely to have other mental health problems, such as drug or alcohol abuse8.

Why Recognizing Military Training Matters

While Veterans you encounter in your work are more likely to have experienced traumatic events, their training may serve their ability to connect with you. For example, Veterans generally: share a desire for public and personal safety; are trained to adhere to rules, structure, and command; and, share commitment to public service and self-sacrifice.

Although there are differences in police and military training, Veterans are experienced in controlling themselves in difficult situations. In addition, police officers are encouraged to consider Veterans as at least their equals in terms of training on tactics, weapons, and use of deadly force. Depending upon deployment type, Veterans may also have significant experience in using these techniques.

PTSD Information Voice Mail: (802) 296-6300
Also see: VA Mental Health