Experts believe nearly 10 percent of adults in the United States — many of them rape victims and combat veterans — cope with post-traumatic stress disorder at some point in their lives.
Millions suffer silently and never receive professional help for their mental disorder, but very few ever resort to violence.
“The vast majority of people with PTSD, whether it’s combat-related or not, are not violent,” said Dean Kilpatrick, director of the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center at the Medical University of South Carolina. “Just like the vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent. Now, there are a subset of people who are.”
It is not clear if PTSD played any part in the tragedy that claimed Lynn Michelle Harrison’s life last week.
Witnesses say the 57-year-old was shot and killed at a Summerville intersection on Thursday by Jimi Redman Jr. He was dressed in military camouflage at the time of the attack.
In a letter he wrote inside a Texas jail six years ago, Redman claimed that he suffers from symptoms commonly associated with PTSD and that he has been traumatized by wartime memories.
He wrote that he watched friends lose their limbs and that he used alcohol to cope with his problems.
“I’ve been to war and it’s the scariest, craziest place that a person can experience and go through. It will change a person real quick,” he wrote. “Some nights I have nightmares of what I’ve seen (and) been through. Just one of these things will change a person forever.”
Redman, who drove from Fort Worth, Texas, before he allegedly shot Harrison to death last week, said during a Friday bond hearing that he suffered a head injury during his military service.
While PTSD may have triggered some sort of nightmare or flashback, “that’s probably not all that was going on,” said Dr. Anisha Gulati, a Trident Health psychiatrist.
Depression and alcoholism tend to further inhibit patients who suffer from PTSD, she said.
Untreated symptoms can be debilitating, but “overall, the risk of violence is not very high,” she said.
Redman’s brother said last week that he served in Iraq and Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne Division and that he has tried to seek treatment through the Department of Veterans Affairs for seven years but has been unable to access services.
A spokeswoman for the VA confirmed that any veteran who served in combat after Nov. 11, 1998, is eligible for health care services through the VA for five years post-discharge. Veterans who do not enroll in VA services during that window may be eligible for future care based on service-related disabilities or their income.
Last week, a VA office in Texas would not discuss Redman’s case, citing patient privacy. He has been charged with murder.
Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.