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Shattered Lives: Soldiers who suffer from PTSD - Part 4

Interview between Carol Roach and Teila Tankersley continued

PTSD and returning soldiers
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

Jail time and rap sheets

Editorial note: According to because of the emotional stress, trouble integrating in society and impulsive behaviors 10 percent of American vets engage in criminal activity.

“Many symptoms of PTSD can lead to a lifestyle that is likely to result in criminal behavior and/or sudden outbursts of violence. Individuals with PTSD are often plagued by memories of the trauma and are chronically anxious. Often, attempts are made to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. The emotional numbness many trauma survivors experience can lead the survivor to engage in sensation-seeking behavior in an attempt to experience some type of emotion. Some combat veterans also may seek to recreate the adrenaline rush experienced during combat.”

How was Jeremiah’s life changed after his diagnosis?

Teila Tankersley writes:

In a few short months, Jeremiah had lost his family, his home and had built up a horrific rap sheet. His mind was finally numb, but his behaviors were out of control. He was arrested for his actions and it was then that his family learned about Vet Court.
At last they thought there was some hope……..

How should PTSD be taken into consideration during criminal sentencing?

Editoral note: According to an article on PSD and criminality in “Criminal Profiling,” the presence of PTSD should be considered by the court during sentencing. If a defendant is diagnosed with PTSD, this information should be introduced as a mitigating factor during the penalty phase of a capital case. In states with versions of the "three strikes" law and in federal cases, the presence of PTSD may be reason for the court to depart from mandatory sentencing guidelines. Various issues pertaining to an individual’s traumatic experience and subsequent adjustment are relevant when PTSD is introduced in sentencing proceedings: Was any type of treatment made available to the defendant either immediately after the event or in the months afterward? Crisis intervention among survivors of traumatic events is extremely important.

Teila Tankersley writes:

But, in one simple sentence made by the District Attorney, Jeremiah's request for Vet Court was declined. The District Attorney made a rush decision with the assumption that his issues were not symptomatic of PTSD, although records indicated otherwise. The DA did not know him and he based it upon those isolated crimes that my son had done in that two and a half months that he was stoned out on drugs.

What is Vet Court?

Teila Tankersley writes:

Vet Court is a jail diversion and trauma recovery program that was established in 2009 in Colorado Springs. Each veteran is assigned peer specialists who are volunteer veterans who provide on-going peer support to the participant while she/he goes through the court process. Vet court doesn't justify the crime; they are there to connect the vet with rehabilitation programs to get to the root of the issues and to prevent them from happening again.

How does Jeremiah Tankersley story help?

Teila Tankersley writes:

This all just demonstrates the need to educate and expand local veteran's courts across the country. Vet Courts guide veterans into treatment for lasting solutions rather than just tossing them into jail, only to come back out the same way they went in.

It is important for the American people to understand that the U.S. military does instill a sense of discipline, duty and respect that is evident in millions of veterans who return home strengthened by their combat experience.

But, we cannot forget that some veterans struggle upon their return. Thankfully veterans treatment courts exist, our goal now is that we do not want them to leave any one behind.

Vet Court works, but it doesn't work if vets like Jeremiah Tankersley are denied access to them. Every returning vet who has been diagnosed with a drug or alcohol abuse problem or mental health issue should have the opportunity to have access to treatment and restoration in a veteran's treatment court. All veterans should be treated with the honor and dignity they deserve.

Vet Court is a long term solution that not only makes the vet responsible for their crimes but also responsible for their recovery.

Where does the Tankersley family go from here?

Teila Tankersley writes:

Our family is not going to give up. We’ve come too far to let PTSD win. Our goal is to educate the public on the effects and realities of PTSD. Meanwhile we will continue to plead for Vet Court and for justice for our son. My son isn’t justifying anything and he has asked for counseling over the years. He does fine while on his medications, but because of the charges that he is facing, it might be a while before he gets his freedom back.

We are finally learning things about PTSD that we wished we’d known long ago. That is why I’m making it my mission to educate others with the information that I wished I had known earlier in order to help my son.

to read part one of this series click here:

to read part two click here:

to read part three click here:

Interview with the Teila Tankersley with permission to reprint her story.

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