2/29/2012: Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Public Hearing

Topic: To solicit information on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in veterans returning from combat.


According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that occurs after a  person has experienced a traumatic event. A traumatic event is a horrible, scary, or life threatening event that a person experiences personally. It is common for US military personnel and veterans to experience PTSD symptoms. These symptoms may include:

• having flash backs related to the traumatic event; • thinking about the traumatic event despite the need to concentrate on other tasks;• avoiding situations that would remind a person of the event or avoiding crowds because they feel dangerous; • feeling numb, emotionless or not having positive thoughts; and • being easily startled and frightened by loud noises.

These symptoms may occur as a result of combat experience. Exposure to a combat environment can have a strong impact on a service member’s mental health and psychological well-being. Experts believe that about 11-20 percent of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars experience PTSD symptoms.

People with PTSD have an increased risk of attempting suicide (six times greater than the general population without PTSD); an increased risk of alcohol dependence (3 times greater); and an increased risk of drug dependence (3.7 times greater). Other less easily quantified effects of PTSD include: homelessness, unemployment, engagement in risky behaviors and criminal activity, and effects on children and spouses.

Nearly 1 million veterans currently reside in New York State. As the Obama Administration continues the drawdown of US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other military commitments worldwide, it is estimated that the total number of veterans in our state will continue to grow.