The Role of Incarceration in Treatment-Seeking Veterans with PTSD: Evaluating Differences in Trauma Symptoms, Suicidality, and Substance Use


August 2021


Sligar, Kylie Blake

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Veterans are an at-risk population with increased chances of exposure to trauma, mental health diagnoses, substance use, and suicidality. Individuals who have been incarcerated demonstrate similar increased risks. As such, when a Veteran also has a history of incarceration, these risks may be exacerbated. It is posited the rate of PTSD among Veterans is 11-20% (National Center of PTSD, 2019). Additionally, it is estimated over 120,000 Veterans are currently incarcerated, with as many as 67% having a mental illness or substance use disorder (Finlay et al., 2017; Bronson et al., 2015). This study aimed to examine how a history of incarceration may impact trauma symptoms in Veterans, and how this differs when compared to Veterans without an incarceration history. The data did not support overall differences between these two groups; however, exploratory analyses suggest potential areas of future directions. Exploratory analyses suggest potential differences in PTSD symptomology, specifically increased endorsement of Cluster C / avoidance among Veterans with PTSD, and increased risk taking among Veterans with PTSD and an incarceration history. Results also suggested higher rates of substance use treatment among Veterans with PTSD and an incarceration history. Lastly, analyses suggest higher endorsement of feeling "tense and keyed up" among Veterans with PTSD. No differences were found between groups in areas of PTSD severity, number of endorsed trauma events, suicidality, or adverse childhood events.

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